Brazil have gone but not the Bangladeshis! Thunderous cheers at the time daylight broke across the country confirmed that Argentina survived in the shootout against the Netherlands. And, with Argentina, the hope of their Bangladeshi fans for a World Cup also survived.
The moment has arrived. It's now one last German hurdle to cross. Can Lionel Messi, one of the world's all-time bests, make it? Only God knows what July 14, the day for the final at Maracana, holds for Messi and Argentina. But the way Argentina played against the losing semi-finalists Netherlands, it will be hard to be hopeful even for the ardent fans. They should expect altogether a different ball game against the well-oiled Germany, who thrashed Brazil 7-1 in the other semi-final.
However, you have to feel bad about the way the dream Dutch run came to an end in spot-kicks, once more. It's the sixth time the Netherlands, who played the most entertaining football in the tournament, got themselves out of a World Cup on penalties.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal failed to apply the tricks he pulled up against Costa Rica the other day. His plan for shoot-outs helped the perennially penalty-chokers bury the ghost, at least on that day.
Seconds before the 120 minutes ended, Tim Krul, the penalty speacialsed goalkeeper came off the bench to replace regular custodian Cillessen. Krul got into sledging right away. His gestures and verbal challenges towards possible spot-kick takers seemed to have paid rich dividends. Krul went on to make two saves to send his team through to the semi-final.
But Thursday turned out to be different for Van Gaal. This time, there was no theatrics or surprises. For fatigue, there could be no substitutions, no miracles and no ticket to the World Cup finale.
A visibly tired Netherlands couldn't keep the pace in extra time and the coach had to burn his third and last substitution in the 96th minute as striker and skipper Robin van Persie simply didn't have anything left in the tank. He could not recover well from the upset stomach he suffered days before the match. And Krul did not get another go at penalty-takers. Regular keeper Jasper Cillessen, however, came close to stopping two shots though. Too bad for the Dutch, he is a few centimetres shorter than Krul!
Romero, on the other hand, has the right to roar. Questioned for his inclusion in the team, the Argentina goalkeeper proved his critics fool again. He was just superb in the 120 minutes of match and the lottery phase. The 27-year-old had studied a binder with details on each player’s shot history and tendencies. He was more than ready as the Dutch came forward to take penalties. Twice he guessed right. His two saves took Argentina to final.