Netherlands 0 – 0 Argentina AET (Argentina Win 4-2 In Penalty Shoot-Out)
It took a while for the game to settle from the opening nerves. When it did, the Dutch were marginally the better side, a bit more composed on the ball, a bit better able to absorb the pressure that came their way and then break forward with the surging runs of Robben. Argentina were making some decent passes of their own though, especially Higuain on the right. In the first 15 minutes both sides had a decent chance, Sneijder’s shot fizzing wide from distance and Messi’s free comfortably saved by Cillessen.
Argentina came more into the game at that point, Messi finding more room coming down the left, Perez making himself a nuisance in the Dutch penalty area. Higuain’s 24th minute header wasn’t too far from giving Argentina the lead, but for the intervention of Vlaar. The Dutch were able to limit the oppositions movements but found themselves stifled as well going forward, long balls to Robben and Van Persie not working out as intended, both of them well marked by an Argentine back four backed up by a deep lying Mascherano.
The rest of the half was fairly even, as both sides kept proving, the South Americans more so, without finding the space for a proper chance. The tackles were certainly flying in, with both sides having men off the pitch to receive treatment during the first, but the game was not bad natured.
The game was one of the tournaments great tactical battles. It wasn’t pretty at times, but the tension, the probing, the waiting for one teams master plan to form a crack, did make it very entertaining. The Dutch came back into the game and controlled large sections of play past the hour marl. But while their interplay and gradual build-ups were fin to watch, no real chances were created. At the other end the runs of Lavezzi were causing problems down the left, but again, no chances, at least until Higuain’s lunging effort went into the side netting.
The game then was stuck in stalemate modem and remained that way as normal time wound down. The Dutch did control the last few minutes, and good play gave Robben the chance to grab the last spot in the final. The Argentinean defence was equal to that, and extra time it was.
It was, as you might expect, a taut nervous affair. The game opened up a bit, with Robben getting a shot off for the first time, and Kuyt doing the work of 3 players down the right. But the final ball was still lacking. Palacio had a glorious chance to win it for Argentina with just a few minutes left, before Messi’s teed up cross was wasted by Maxi Rodriguez. Both sides had their chances then, but neither could be separated.
And so to the shootout. Argentina had done their homework, kept their nerve and found the net, while Romero proved he had the better athleticism. The Netherlands faltered after missing the first. Argentina and Germany should be a fine final. The 3rd/4th Place Play-Off not so much.
So, how did the prediction go? Picks in bold, winners in italics:
Brazil – Germany
Netherlands – Argentina
One for two. That brings me to 31/62, sticking strongly to that 50%. And so, to the last two games. Predictions in bold:
Brazil – Netherlands
Germany – Argentina
See you at the weekend.