After that match the other night; you know, the one with all those goals and that little kid crying at the end (Oscar I think he’s called) I was not expecting much from this other semi final. Football as a whole had peaked; there can’t be anything as exhilarating as that… we might as well all go and watch tennis…or the world staring championships (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkI85Kt10e4)
But this is Holland we’re talking about. What’s Van Gaal going to do this time? Well, he’s already brought in Nigel De Jong back from the dead to replace Memphis Depay and more importantly kick seven shades out of Messi, so we know he’s prepared.
Tim Krul, starts on the bench, presumably writing down which way the Argentinian players take penalties on his gloves…and growling. Neither side give away much during the opening 10 minutes, the ball pings around the midfield, no one able to find a way through; De Jong doing his job on Messi. A great ball by Higuain 13 mins over the top of Blind and Marins Indi finds Perez who goes down for a free kick at the edge of the Dutch box.
Messi strikes it around the wall to force a good save by Cillesen. 20 mins in and my attention is starting to wane, Argentina are pressing and finding ways through in and around the flanks; Lavezzi and Perez linking up well and Holland defending to the last man. The Dutch are finding it hard to get Robben into the game, preferring to hoik balls high to Van Persie. 30 minutes and Holland are yet to work Romero save for a clearing punch. Talking of combat, Di Maria does a hatchet job on Sneijder with 10 minutes to go of the first half and escapes a booking. As the first half draws to a close Argentina have more of a hold on the game, it’s all getting a bit scrappy in central midfield.
The first half end; Robben still hasn’t really done anything yet and its credit to an Argentinian defence that has been slated by just about everyone, keeping it this way. No changes from either team as the second half gets under way; Sneijder, usually delivering free kicks with aplomb, blasts an ambitious one over the bar. Robben gets a bit of a break but Biglia matches his run. At the other end, seconds later, Vlaar’s superb challenge halts Messi making room for a shot; both teams, to use the cliché, are cancelling each other out. 74 minutes before anything of note happens; those baggy nets ripple with the mirage of a goal as Higuaín’s shot is just wide from a superb gross from Perez.
Down the other end, Sneijder spoons another free kick high and wide. Agüero makes his appearance on 81 minutes to take the place of Higuaín and the game plods on at the pace of a ruptured mollusc. The final minute of normal time sees Robben burst into the Argentine penalty area, Zabaletta’s challenge denying him at the very last. It proves to be the (thankfully) final real action of a dreadful second half and extra time looms. (Everyone secretly wishes we could go straight to penalties.) Openings appear during the first half of extra time but Holland aren’t capitalising; keeping the ball a bit too long. Hunelaar comes on for RVP and gets a yellow card. That’s about it.
The second half of extra time starts and Zabaletta gets Kuyt’s elbow in his jaw. Hopefully this will invoke some archaic rule and take the game straight to penalties…it’s a work night you know! Nothing to really report on the second half Argentina have two half-chances but both are straight at Cillessen. …remember that kids’ show from the 80s, ‘Knightmare’? ‘Careful team, your life-force is low…’ Yeah….that… So…penalties and Krul stays on the bench. Vlaar’s penalty is saved and Messi puts away his with ease. Advantage Argentina. Robben send the keeper the wrong way and Garay smashes his into the top of the net. Sneijder sums up his performance tonight; Romeo gets both hands to his penalty. It’s not looking good for the Dutch; Cillessen goes the right way for Agüero’s spot kick but it wriggles in and Kuyt scores.
The last penalty; Cillessen gets his hands to but it’s not enough to keep it out and Maxi Rodriguez sends Argentina to the World Cup final to face Germany.
Holland did not deserve a victory here; they looked sub-par in a devastatingly poor game. Robben only had a couple of moments; Sneijder was poor and Van Persie anonymous.
Argentina weren’t much better but they’ve shown throughout the tournament they can play poorly and still get through.
Let’s just hope Germany turn up on Sunday because if they don’t, slippery Argentina will only be too happy to take the title on the soil of their rivals and in the wake of Brazilian humiliation. (which has nowt to do with a dodgy razor!) Over and out.