Argentina clinched a place in the 2014 World Cup final to face Germany after prevailing in a penalty shootout over the Netherlands. It's the first time since 1990 they will be playing in the final round.
In contrast to the wide-open, raucous display that the other semifinal game produced, this was an even contest and a frequently dull one as the game became bogged down in a midfield battle.
The match actually started well with both sides looking to nick an early advantage, but Javier Mascherano and Nigel de Jong were both at large and did their best to prevent any real chances from emerging. The first goalkeeper to be troubled was Jasper Cillessen when Lionel Messi struck a free kick his way, but the keeper made a comfortable save. again came close through Ezequiel Garay from a corner, but the center back headed the ball over.
Louis van Gaal shuffled his squad after halftime by bringing on Daryl Janmaat and moving Dirk Kuyt further forward, but the two teams remained deadlocked. A lack of attacking adventure and some fine defending from both sides resulted in a tense affair with few real chances.
Argentina had the biggest chance up until then when Gonzalo Higuain profited from Enzo Perez's excellent cross to the far post, but the Napoli forward prodded the ball into the side-netting to spurn his team's best chance of going through. With extra time looming, the biggest chance of the game came just on the turn of injury time as Wesley Sneijder put Arjen Robben clean through on goal, but a heavy touch and an intervention from Mascherano denied him.
Van Gaal opted to replace Robin van Persie with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for his third substitution, thus denying him the opportunity to use Tim Krul for the penalty shootout like he did with Costa Rica. Extra time continued in much the same vein, but there was a moment of Messi magic to unlock the Dutch defense. Messi beat three defenders down the right before supplying an excellent cross for the substitute Maxi Rodriguez, but his volley could not live up to his most famous goal for Argentina, and Cillessen easily claimed the ball.
The match progressed to penalties, with Cillessen in goal this time for the Netherlands. Ron Vlaar was the surprise candidate to take the first penalty, and the decision backfired when Sergio Romero kept his effort out. Messi stepped up first for the Argentinians, and duly converted his shot. Robben coolly dispatched the Netherlands' second, but Garay maintained the South Americans' advantage by smashing home their second penalty.
The Dutch were left staring down the barrel when Sneijder's effort was kept out by Romero and Sergio Aguero buried his effort. Kuyt made his critical shot to keep the Dutch alive another round. Rodriguez had the chance to put Argentina through, and duly dispatched his to send his side through to the final.
Argentina: Romero; Rojo, Garay, Demichelis, Zabaleta; Mascherano, Biglia; Pérez (Palacio 81'), Messi, Lavezzi (Rodriguez 101'); Higuaín (Aguero 82').
: Cillessen; Blind, Vlaar, De Vrij, Martins Indi (Janmaat 46'), Kuyt; Wijnaldum, de Jong (Clasie 62'), Sneijder; van Persie (Huntelaar 96'), Robben.