Tuesday - Sep 26, 2017

World Cup Round Up- Semi Final 2 – Argentina wins the penalty kick lottery, to meet Germany in the World Cup final on Sunday

World Cup Round Up- Semi Final 2 - Argentina wins the penalty kick lottery, to meet Germany in the World Cup final on Sunday

Following on the drama and tragedy of the previous night’s match against Germany and Brazil, it was almost inevitable that the second semi-final of the World Cup played between Holland and Argentina would be something of an anti-climax. Which it turned out to be and more, with the only record being broken was that it was the first World Cup semi-final in history to end without a goal being scored, even after extra time.

From the opening minutes it became obvious this was to be a hard fought midfield battle, and the tens of thousands of Argentinian and Dutch fans crammed into the Arena de Sao Paulo refused to let the pounding rain dampen their spirits in any way, despite the decidedly un-inspiring performances on the field.

Master tactician Louis Van Gaal brought back Nigel De Jong from a groin injury to man mark Lionel Messi, Argentina’s principal creative force with Angel di Maria out injured to considerable effect, with Messi being forced ever increasingly deeper. In fact the little prince’s only chance came in the first half from a long-range free-kick that was held comfortably by Dutch goalkeeper Cillessen.

Holland’s main attacking danger Arjen Robben was equally ineffective as the Argentinian defense, brilliantly marshalled by Javier Mascherano, who inspired his teammates by his amazing recovery after taking what looked like a serious blow to the head in the first half.

Real scoring chances for both sides throughout the 120 minutes could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and despite both managers making tactical substitutions, the chances of the typing settled without the need for a penalty kick shootout became increasingly unlikely.

Van Gaal, was even denied the chance to substitute goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen to introduce the Colombian penalty kick hero Tim Krul, having used up his last substitute by replacing the once again listless Robin Van Persie with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar with six minutes gone of extra time.

Van Persie’s substitution was to prove doubly critical when the penalty kick shootout got underway, with defender Ron Vlaar took his place as the critical first penalty kicker and made a mess of the job against a competent Sergio Romero. After that miss the Dutch were on the back foot with Messi, Garay and Aguero all confidently on target before MaxiRodriguez’s power penalty kick sent Sabella’s side to Rio after Wesley Snyder had uncharacteristically missed the Dutch’s third penalty.

Sunday’s final between Germany and Argentina marks the third time that these two leading soccer countries have made in the World Cup final, the first time in 1986, when Argentina, brilliantly led by Diego Maradona, won 3-2 to win their most recent World Cup. The pair met up again four years later with West Germany’winning by a single goal in Italy, which was also their last World Cup triumph.

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