Argentina defeats Netherlands on penalty kicks, advances to final on Sunday against Germany

Sao Paulo (IANS): Argentina set up a FIFA World Cup final clash against Germany after overcoming the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout. Both teams failed to score at the end of regular and extra time at the Arena Corinthians here Wednesday.

For the first time in 26 years, a World Cup semifinal match went into penalties after no breakthrough could be found in both regular and extra time.

Argentine goalkeeper Romero emerged the hero for his country saving two out of four spot kicks from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder.

Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez all scored their penalties to take Argentina in to the final against the Germans at the Rio’s Maracana Stadium Sunday.

Brazil and the Netherlands will contest for the third and fourth place Saturday.

In a very tight affair both sides were mainly caught up in a midfield battle. Both coaches had their respective personnel organised and resiliently in shape, with crosses from deep areas providing the only real opportunities.

The likes of Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie were all kept very quiet thanks to some sturdy defending.

Argentine fans would have especially been disappointed by their little genuis’ lacklustre performance. Messi always had two or more than two players on him and found the going extremely tough.

The Barcelona star put in a lazy performance while on defence and gave the ball away on too many occasions in the final third.

Argentina definitely missed the enterprise of Angel Di Maria on the wings but his replacement Perez did have a decent match.

In regular time, there was not much in the way of chances or inspiration.

The first half was a battle of patience between the two teams as they sussed out each other. Both sides have managed to nullify the opposition’s key players, but sacrificed their own ability to score goals as a result.

The Netherlands, like in all their previous matches, weren’t to be hurried, composedly keeping possession and biding their time.

Most of the game was caught up in the midfield third, the Oranje weren’t prepared to concede before the break, with Nigel De Jong sometimes dropping in between the central defenders to make a line of six.

It was a cagey start to the second half, as the contest continued to be something of a chess match.

Neither side were hurried in possession, ignoring the boos and jeers from the neutrals in the crowd, who wanted to see some free-flowing and attacking football.

All the game needed was one goal to really open the contest up but sadly it never came.

Such was the discipline and organisation in depends for both teams that by the end of regular time, the Netherlands had zero shots on target while their South American opponents managed just two.

Neither side were able to find the cutting edge or moment of inspiration required to really cause problems for the opposition as the match headed to extra time.

In extra time, it was a tired start to proceedings, as risk management continued to be high on both sides’ priorities.

The Netherlands would have felt confident heading into a penalty shoot-out, given their success against Costa Rica in the quarters, but Argentina are used to playing under extreme pressure.

Neither side could carve open a good opportunity, as solid defending continued to reign supreme.

In the second half of extra time both sides again looked tired and laboured with their passing, sitting fairly deep when out of possession to eliminate the possibility of making a late mistake.