Argentina beat Netherlands on penalties to reach World Cup final
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Sergio Romero saved two penalties as Argentina beat the Netherlands on Wednesday in a shootout, reaching the World Cup final after the first-ever semi-final to finish goalless after extra time.
Goalie Romero plunged low to his left to save the first penalty kick from Dutch defender Ron Vlaar and then made a superb stop from Wesley Sneijder. None of the Argentines missed and Argentina won the shootout, 4-2.
The pressure of taking the winning kick fell to Argentina substitute Maxi Rodriguez who blasted the ball high to Jasper Cillessen’s right. The Dutch goalie reached the ball but could not stop it.
"We have given everything and I'm incredibly proud of this team," the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben said after the game.
"It came down to penalties and they simply did better," he told Dutch broadcaster NOS. "To lose like this simply sucks, it hurts."
The Dutch had used their three substitutions before the end of extra time so could not bring Tim Krul off the bench as they did in their quarter-final win over Costa Rica. Cillessen has still never saved a penalty as a professional.
Argentina now travel to Rio de Janeiro for Sunday's final against old rivals Germany. It will be a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals and the first time the same two teams have met three times in a World Cup final. It will also be the seventh time the two countries have met at a World Cup. The only other matchup to have occurred as many times is Brazil-Sweden.
Both teams continued the cautious tactics they had adopted during the knockout rounds. The drab match was the polar opposite of Germany's 7-1 annihilation of Brazil in the first semi-final 24 hours earlier.
Argentina had equalled their longest winning streak at a World Cup with their 1-0 victory over Belgium in the quarter-finals, but all five of those wins were by one-goal margins and they were even less creative without the injured Angel di Maria.
Nigel de Jong, best known for his chest-high kick on Spain's Xabi Alonso in the 2010 final which the Dutch lost, completed a remarkable recovery from a groin injury to play in midfield and clearly had orders to shadow Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi.
Messi was kept quiet by his standards. He did test Cillessen with a free kick early on and that proved to be the only shot on target by either team in the first half although Ezequiel Garay stooped to head a corner just over the bar under pressure from Vlaar.
The second period was equally sterile as the Dutch failed to record a shot on target for the entire 90 minutes. Robben was near invisible until the 90th minute, when he burst into the box, only to be denied by Javier Mascherano's well-timed block.
Argentina substitute Rodrigo Palacio missed a chance in the second period of extra time when he broke clear and his tame header was held comfortably by a relieved Cillessen.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
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