• Friday, September 19, 2014

Romero sends Argentina into final

After 120 goalless minutes, the Albiceleste win shootout to set final against Germany

Sergio Romero of Argentina saves the penalty kick of Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands (not pictured) in a shootout during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014.
Sergio Romero of Argentina saves the penalty kick of Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands (not pictured) in a shootout during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014.

Argentina reached the World Cup final as Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal failed to produce another penalty masterstroke, Goal.com reports.

Having introduced goalkeeper Tim Krul off the bench to replace number one Jasper Cillessen in the quarter-final shoot-out win against Costa Rica - with the Newcastle shot-stopper subsequently saving two spot-kicks to send his side through - Van Gaal had no such options this time around as Wednesday's semi-final finished 0-0 after extra time.

The Dutch had used all three substitutes by that point, leaving Cillessen to face Argentina's efforts when it mattered most.

And the youngster - who had never before kept out a penalty in his career - failed to reproduce his team-mate's heroics as opposite number Sergio Romero saved from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder to book Argentina's place in the showpiece against Germany on Sunday.

Ultimately, Maxi Rodriguez sealed a 4-2 shoot-out success, crashing his penalty in off the crossbar via the palms of Cillessen to spark jubilant scenes among the South Americans in the stands in Sao Paulo.

In a contest that was a far cry from the stunning drama of Germany's humiliation of Brazil 24 hours earlier, penalties always seemed the most likely outcome and so it proved.

The last time these two teams met in the knockout stages of a finals - in 1998 - the game was lit up by the sublime quality of Dennis Bergkamp's winning goal, but such moments of outstanding individual brilliance were almost non-existent here.

Much of the build-up was dominated by talk of a battle for supremacy between the two sides' respective talismen, but both Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben were well shackled throughout.

 Argentina captain and forward Lionel Messi responds to the crowd after his side qualified for the World Cup final beating the Netherlands 4-2 in the second semi-final.
Argentina captain and forward Lionel Messi responds to the crowd after his side qualified for the World Cup final beating the Netherlands 4-2 in the second semi-final.

With many neutrals having hoped for a Brazil-Argentina final, the capitulation of the hosts on Tuesday meant that was a distant dream, but the success of Alejandro Sabella's men at least ensures that there will be South American representation in the showpiece.

The Dutch, runners-up four years ago, will now face a wounded Brazil in the third-place play-off in Brasilia on Saturday.

In stark contrast to the first semi, where Germany had raced into a 5-0 lead within 29 minutes to stun the hosts, what unfolded a day on was far less enthralling.

Netherlands made one change from their quarter-final win over Costa Rica as Nigel de Jong - who it was thought had been ruled out of the tournament with a groin strain - made an unexpected recovery to return in place of Memphis Depay.

For Argentina, Marcos Rojo came back from a one-match suspension, and Enzo Perez earned a spot in the absence of the injured Angel di Maria.

Neither side carved out a clear goalscoring opportunity in a turgid first period, Sneijder firing an effort on goal in the 13th minute, but his volley from outside the box was comfortably wide of the left-hand post.

Messi threatened for the first time two minutes later, seeing his free-kick well held by Cillessen diving low to his right.

Argentina looked marginally the more dangerous of the two sides and midway through the first half Ezequiel Garay headed Ezequiel Lavezzi's left-wing corner over the crossbar under pressure from Vlaar.

Pablo Zabaleta of Argentina is challenged by Daley Blind of the Netherlands during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Pablo Zabaleta of Argentina is challenged by Daley Blind of the Netherlands during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

There was a moment of concern for Argentina shortly afterwards, when a clearly dazed Javier Mascherano fell to the floor following a clash of heads with Georginio Wijnaldum.

After receiving treatment, Mascherano was able to walk off the field and soon returned to action.

The second period began in much the same fashion as the first, with neither side able to make any inroads in the final third of the field.

Gonzalo Higuain did have half an opening in the 58th minute, but substitute Daryl Janmaat's covering header denied the Napoli man the chance to get on the end of Lavezzi's delivery from the right.

Once again, Higuain was unable to capitalise on a rare sight of goal 15 minutes from time, stretching to divert Perez's clever low ball into the side netting from close range.

Rojo tried his luck from distance nine minutes later, but his well-hit drive was straight at an untroubled Cillessen.

Robben's big moment arrived in the first minute of stoppage time as he bore down on goal following a fortuitous ricochet on the edge of the area, but Mascherano recovered brilliantly to deny the Bayern Munich man with a last-ditch tackle.

The winger had the first effort of note in extra-time, bringing a routine save out of Romero with a dipping effort from 25 yards after a trademark darting run off the right flank.

There were two late chances for Sabella's men in the final five minutes of the extra period, but both Rodrigo Palacio and Rodriguez failed to gain sufficient power on their efforts to really test Cillessen.

But, with Krul watching on from the sidelines this time, there was little that the young Dutch goalkeeper could do to prevent a clinical Argentina booking their place in the final when the spot-kicks arrived, as first Vlaar and then Sneijder proved wayward before Rodriguez struck the decisive blow.

*** *** ***

Robin van Persie of the Netherlands and Ezequiel Garay of Argentina compete for the ball clash during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Robin van Persie of the Netherlands and Ezequiel Garay of Argentina compete for the ball clash during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

MATCH COMMENTARY: PENALTY SHOOT-OUT

It was a patient and measured game, one which provided plenty of half chances but no real inspiration! The likes of Messi, Robben and Van Persie were quiet, but the grit of Mascherano helped to drag Sabella's men through. Argentina hold their nerve and walk into the World Cup final!

ARGENTINA PROGRESS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE NETHERLANDS! It will be the Albiceleste versus Germany at the Maracana, while the Oranje players walk around despondently. Cillessen also kept out the final penalty, but instead keeps his record of failing to stop a spot-kick during his professional career!

SCORED! MAXI RODRIGUEZ PUTS ARGENTINA INTO THE WORLD CUP FINAL! It's too hot to handle and Cillessen can only turn the midfielder's penalty onto the underside of the crossbar! Netherlands 2-4 Argentina!

SCORED! Kuyt remains composed to pass the ball into the bottom right corner, sending Romero entirely the wrong way! Oranje are still in it! Netherlands 2-3 Argentina!

SCORED! Aguero take a long run-up, but slides his penalty below the desperate dive of Cillessen and into the bottom left corner! All the pressure is on Oranje now! Netherlands 1-3 Argentina!

SAVED! Sneijder places the ball inside the left post, but Romero springs to his right-hand side to palm it around the upright brilliantly! Netherlands 1-2 Argentina!

SCORED! Garay, another centre-back, is the next man to face Cillessen! He hammers a ferocious strike straight down the middle and beyond the helpless goalkeeper! Netherlands 1-2 Argentina!

SCORED! Robben places down the ball, needing to score to keep the pressure on the Albiceleste. He sends Romero the wrong way, passing the ball into the bottom right corner! Netherlands 1-1 Argentina!

SCORED! Messi is the second to the spot, with plenty of pressure on his shoulders to perform on the world stage! He slots the ball over Cillessen to give the advantage to Argentina! Netherlands 0-1 Argentina!

SAVED! Vlaar steps up for the first penalty of the evening, taking the longest walk in the stadium up to the spot! He puts his penalty too close to the goalkeeper, who beats it away with his forearm! Netherlands 0-0 Argentina!

*** *** ***

Netherlands' midfielder Wesley Sneijder (R) and Argentina's midfielder Lucas Biglia challenge for the ball during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Netherlands' midfielder Wesley Sneijder (R) and Argentina's midfielder Lucas Biglia challenge for the ball during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

120' + 2'FULL TIME IN EXTRA TIME! WE GO TO PENALTIES! Big chances for Rodriguez and Palacio for Argentina late on, but neither the Albiceleste nor the Netherlands can find the all-important opener.

120' + 1' Kuyt tries to thread a pass through to Wijnaldum, but it's slightly too heavy for the Dutch midfielder! Rojo does just enough to put off his onrushing man!

120' We're only a few minutes from penalties now, though it has looked likely for the past half an hour! The Netherlands still aren't committing too many players forward despite having possession high up the field, they don't want to be caught on the break! Kuyt has half a glimpse of goal from 18 yards, but his attempt is blocked!

118' MAXI RODRIGUEZ NOW HAS AN OPPORTUNITY! Messi escapes Vlaar for the first time, before clipping a cross to the back post from the byeline! Rodriguez has plenty of time to watch it, but cushions his volley into the grasp of Cillessen!

116' HUGE CHANCE FOR PALACIO! A cross bounces through for Palacio to attack at the back post from Rodriguez, who miscontrols at his first attempt! Cillessen races out to collect, meaning that the diminutive striker tries to flick a header over the goalkeeper, but the chance results with the Ajax shot-stopper having the ball in his hands!

114' Both sides are looking tired and laboured with their passing, sitting fairly deep when out of possession to eliminate the possibility of making a late mistake. It's scrappy stuff in a tight, closed scenario. It appears that both elevens would take a shootout.

112' Messi certainly doesn't look to be moving particularly freely, but Sabella will have kept his captain on the field for the possibility of a penalty shootout - which at this point is looking inevitable. Vlaar sticks tight to Aguero once again, before sliding in to make a clearance.

110' Palacio nearly manages to bustle his way through the Dutch lines and in on goal, but is robbed of possession during his endeavours. The Netherlands are trying to control the game, but only make inroads when Robben gets on the ball. De Vrij shoots from 25 yards, but Romero is able to let it bounce wide.

Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball during their semi-final match with Netherlands at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball during their semi-final match with Netherlands at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

109' After extensive treatment and with some dressing inside his mouth, Zabaleta changes into a clean shirt and prepares to get back onto the field. Nobody is willing to leave their job half finished, especially during a World Cup semi-final.

108' Zabaleta is now down on the turf for Argentina, after the right-back collided with the shoulder of Kuyt. The clash looked rather sickening, with the fall not helping the Man City man's cause either. He might not be able to continue after that!

106' We are back underway in the second half of extra time! The coaches have had words in their players' ears, but it's all down to the tired personnel on the field of play now!

105' + 1' HALF TIME IN EXTRA TIME! Only 15 minutes remain for either team to break the deadlock, with penalties ominously awaiting! Van Gaal has already made his substitutions, however, meaning that we won't be seeing Tim Krul this evening!

105' + 1' Palacio earns himself a yard of space on the right flank to beat Blind, before delivering an excellent cross in towards the back post. Aguero tries to get there, but Janmaat is able to turn the ball behind for a corner! Great stuff from the Inter forward.

105' Yellow Card: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

105' Messi whips a free-kick in towards the penalty spot, but Cillessen punches the ball away ahead of Aguero, who threatened to flick the delivery over the onrushing goalkeeper.

104' Still no clear cut chances for either goalkeeper to deal with, but the initiative is certainly still with the Netherlands. As long as Kuyt is the man to play the final ball into the box, however, it's tough to see the Dutch finding the opening goal.

102' Neither side can carve open a good opportunity, as solid defending continues to reign supreme. Robben is growing into the game, with his stamina and incessant running belying his age! If Oranje are to win this before a penalty shoot out, it's likely that the Bayern man will feature heavily.

101' Substitution: Ezequiel Lavezzi OUT, Maxi Rodríguez IN

100' Sabella now makes a change, with Lavezzi being replaced by Rodriguez. The PSG man has been bright at times, but faded as the game has progressed. Argentina may be looking to shore up their midfield with that switch, the Newell's man may well sit slightly deeper.

99' Robben drives down the right, before cutting onto his favoured left foot, but his strike is angled directly at Romero from 25 yards. The Monaco goalkeeper is able to watch the ball bounce off the turf and into his grateful arms.

98' The Netherlands are starting to gain momentum, but Mascherano is embodying the Argentine commitment thus far. Palacio and Aguero have been very quiet, with Sabella's substitutions not having the desired effect as of yet.

96' Substitution: Robin van Persie OUT, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar IN

96' Van Persie takes his leave, after yet another disappointing outing for the Man United forward. Robben manages to wriggle free of Zabaleta and Demichelis in the penalty area, but his eventual cross is blocked by a recovering Mascherano. The resulting corner is headed clear at the near post.

95' Kuyt has yet another opportunity to deliver from the left flank, but his cross arcs out of play for a goal-kick. Huntelaar is warming up on the sidelines and it appears that Van Gaal will soon be making his final substitution - no Tim Krul today!

93' A cagey and tired start to proceedings, as risk management continues to be high on both sides' priorities. The Netherlands might feel confident heading into a penalty shoot-out, given their success against Costa Rica, but Argentina are used to playing under extreme pressure.

91' We are back underway in extra time! There might be some tired legs out there, but only 30 minutes remain for Netherlands and Argentina to book their place in the World Cup final in open play!

*** *** ***

FULL TIME

It goes to extra time, with neither team able to break the deadlock! No goals in Sao Paulo, but be sure to stick around for all of the additional action! A few big late chances, but a last ditch challenge from Mascherano keeps the Albiceleste in with a chance!

90' + 2' Sneijder whips in a near post corner delivery, but Mascherano heads away to help his side once again. The loose ball is worked back to the set piece taker, but this time the Galatasaray man opts to curl a cross into the back post - resulting in a strong Romero punch!

90' + 1' GREAT CHALLENGE FROM MASCHERANO! Sneijder releases Robben with a brilliant backheel, before the Bayern man scurries into the box and pulls the trigger! Mascherano recovers, matching him all of the way before sliding in to deny his opponent! Brilliant defending!

90’ There are three minutes of stoppage time!

89' Only a couple of minutes of normal time remain for either side to break the deadlock! Kuyt tries to find Van Persie with another lofted pass, but yet again the Manchester United forward is dominated aerially. Oranje are running out of ideas, somewhat.

87' Aguero is almost given half a chance to test Cillessen from close range, but Vlaar appears again to slide in and make an important block! He's having a stormer tonight in Sao Paulo!

86' De Vrij earns some applause, after daring to turn Aguero and then clear the ball upfield, rather than letting the pressure affect him. Robben tries to get in behind Demichelis once again, but the experienced defender slides in to give away a corner - which comes to nothing for Oranje.

Georginio Wijnaldum of the Netherlands and Javier Mascherano of Argentina clash during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Georginio Wijnaldum of the Netherlands and Javier Mascherano of Argentina clash during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

84' Narrowly over five minutes remain, with plenty of the coaches' cards now on the table. Argentina certainly have fresh legs in forward areas now. Rojo lines up a long-range effort, which he blasts straight at Cillessen, forcing the Ajax shot-stopper to collect at his second attempt.

82' Substitution: Gonzalo Higuaín OUT, Sergio Agüero IN

82' Two changes for Argentina, as Perez is replaced by Palacio and Higuain takes his leave as a sacrifice for Aguero. The Man City man has been out for the best part of a fortnight, meaning that this could be a huge gamble from Sabella.

81' Substitution: Enzo Nicolás Pérez OUT, Rodrigo Palacio IN

81' A cross is clipped in towards Wijnaldum on the edge of the penalty area, with the midfielder flicking the ball into the path of Robben. It's slightly too heavy, with Rojo covering across well to defuse the situation and clear!

79' Patience continues to be key for both sides, as neither are prepared to make a deadly mistake so close to the end of the contest. Concede now and they would be extremely vulnerable to letting in a second, given the fact that chasing the game would become a requirement.

77' We're moving into the dying stages of normal time now, with a few more gaps starting to open up for both sides on the break. Against Mexico we saw the Netherlands leave it until the death, could we see another late finish from Oranje to steer them towards the World Cup final?

75' SIDE NETTING FOR HIGUAIN! Half of the crowd thought it was in! A teasing, devilish cross bobbled across the length of the six-yard box, but the Napoli striker could only poke the ball narrowly wide of the near post!

74' Janmaat drives down the right-hand side, before the Feyenoord full-back clips a cross in towards Van Persie. He gets contact on the ball and tries an acrobatic overhead kick, but the linesman's flag was raised for offside anyway!

73' Vlaar gives away a free-kick due to a rather interesting challenge, one where he chose to throw his body directly at the legs of Higuain! Messi delivers from the right-hand side, but curls the ball directly out of play for a goal-kick. Not what the crowd wanted!

71' Rojo breaks down the left-hand side, before setting the ball back to Lavezzi. The PSG winger cuts inside onto his right foot, but sees his eventual shot blocked by Vlaar. The Aston Villa defender is on the end of everything this evening!

70' Only 20 minutes remain, with this game appearing destined for extra time! Neither side have been able to find the cutting edge or moment of inspiration required to really cause problems for the opposition.

68' Zabaleta tries his luck from range, but sees his cross-cum-shot blocked easily. Both goalkeepers haven't been tested from open play and this theme looks set to continue! Kuyt curls another cross into the back post, but Garay reaches the delivery instead of Van Persie.

66' Kuyt flings a deep cross in towards Van Persie, but Garay rises well to clear the danger with his head. Argentina are happy for Janmaat and Kuyt to have the ball in wide areas, as they back their own central defenders to win aerial battles.

65' The two systems continue to get the better of the opposition's offensive options, as clever pressing limits the possibilities for both sides' midfielders. As players begin to tire, a few gaps might begin to open up, but for the moment goals aren't looking likely.

Arjen Robben of the Netherlands is tackled by Javier Mascherano of Argentina during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo Getty Images
Arjen Robben of the Netherlands is tackled by Javier Mascherano of Argentina during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo Getty Images

63' De Jong is indeed replaced, with the defensive midfielder managing to put in an excellent hour shift. Biglia remains down for a couple of minutes, but returns to his feet rather than using a stretcher. He looks okay to continue.

62' Substitution: Nigel De Jong OUT, Jordy Clasie IN

61' Clasie is warming up for the Netherlands, with De Jong possibly the man to be replaced for Van Gaal's side. They've not been moving the ball too well in the second half and there's another break in play now, as Biglia goes down following a heavy challenge from Janmaat.

60' Half an hour remains, with both sides mainly caught up in a midfield battle. Both coaches have their respective personnel organised and resiliently in shape, with crosses from deep areas providing the only real opportunities. The likes of Messi, Robben and Van Persie have been very quiet.

58' Possession is still key for both sides, with tentative probing still the name of the game. Lavezzi delivers an excellent cross towards the penalty spot for Higuain to attack, but Janmaat gets across well to cover his central defenders and make a vital interception!

56' Messi tries to shift the ball onto his left foot and carve out a shooting opportunity, but again Vlaar manages to scramble across and put in a well-timed sliding challenge. The Dutch defender isn't going to be beaten tonight, it seems!

54' Neither side are to be hurried in possession, ignoring the boos and jeers from the neutrals in the crowd, who want to see some free-flowing and attacking football. One goal would really open this contest up. Robben tries to drive through the heart of the Argentine defence, beating Demichelis, but Biglia recovers well to get a foot in.

Robin van Persie of the Netherlands and Martin Demichelis of Argentina compete for the ball during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Robin van Persie of the Netherlands and Martin Demichelis of Argentina compete for the ball during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

52' Messi receives the ball again on the edge of the penalty area, but Vlaar stays tight to his man and robs the Barca forward of possession. The Dutch defender has been incredibly solid throughout the entire tournament and is continuing his inspired form tonight too.

51' Messi looks to race in behind, but is flagged correctly offside. Cillessen was first to the through ball, but it doesn't matter, as the referee had already pressed his whistle to his lips. A cagey start to the second half, as this continues to be something of a chess match.

50' Sneijder goes for goal with a long-range free-kick, but curls the ball high and wide of the top left hand corner. Romero is happy to watch it rise into the crowd, with pained expressions on the Dutch bench showing what Van Gaal's coaching staff thought of the attempt.

49' Yellow Card: Martín Demichelis

49' Robben receives possession and tries to turn Demichelis, but the Man City defender cynically clips the Dutch forward as he looks to race in behind. The Argentina defender gets an early yellow card, perhaps showing that the referee is slowly losing his patience with scrappy tackles.

48' Garay is forced to hoof the ball out of play under no pressure, due to the former Benfica central defender having only one boot on. The referee affords him a few seconds to get his footwear sorted out so the match can continue.

47' There's one change in personnel, as Martins Indi is substituted - probably due to his yellow card in the first half. Blind will shift inside to left centre-half, with Kuyt switching to left wing-back, leaving a void for Janmaat to fill at right wing-back. The shape looks to be remaining the same for the Dutch.

46' Substitution: Bruno Martins Indi OUT, Daryl Janmaat IN

46' We're back underway in Sao Paulo, as the Netherlands and Argentina bid to navigate their way into the final round of this World Cup. Not much in the way of chances or inspiration thus far, but we've still got plenty of time to see some goals this evening!

HALF TIME

It remains goalless at the break, after a very interesting opening 45 minutes in Sao Paulo. Both sides have managed to nullify the opposition's key players, but are sacrificing their own ability to score goals as a result. Not much in the way of chances!

45' + 2' Messi spreads play, picking out Rojo on the left flank with an intelligent pass, but the left-back can't steer a first-time cross into the path of a galloping Higuain! It's five yards too high, but a good idea.

45' Yellow Card: Bruno Martins Indi

45' Messi whips in yet another free-kick delivery, but Cillessen is easily able to rise and claim, despite pressure from Rojo. There will be two minutes of stoppage time.

44' Despite the clock ticking down to the end of the first half, the Netherlands aren't to be hurried, composedly keeping possession and biding their time. De Vrij eventually tries to lift a long ball into Van Persie, but Demichelis rises well to beat the Dutch striker to the pass.

42' Plenty of the game has been caught up in the midfield third, with Perez able to step into Di Maria's slot fairly well. Oranje aren't prepared to concede before the break, with De Jong sometimes dropping in between the central defenders to make a line of six, at times.

Martin Demichelis of Argentina challenges Robin van Persie of the Netherlands during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Martin Demichelis of Argentina challenges Robin van Persie of the Netherlands during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

40' Around five minutes until half time and it appears that neither team are willing to break the deadlock if it means leaving any gaps for the opposition to exploit. Martins Indi and De Vrij have occasionally looked a little bit nervous and willing to commit a cynical foul, but the referee is yet to dip into his book.

38' Sneijder now needs some treatment, as the Dutch midfielder is caught by a poor challenge from Demichelis. Meanwhile, Messi is down for Argentina, as he was physically blocked off by Martins Indi, who has been slightly reckless in his last two games.

36' Lavezzi marauders down the right flank yet again, cutting a cross into the path of Higuain at the near post, but Vlaar gets across well to keep tabs on his man and hoof clear. The Dutch defence is looking sturdy, but the PSG winger is causing a few problems.

35' Higuain looked to get in behind the Dutch backline, but goes slightly too early and is found offside. Argentina haven't been able to get the ball into Higuain and Messi too often, but Lavezzi has looked fairly bright. Both teams, it appears, are more confident without the ball at the moment!

33' Van Persie is nearly found in a pocket of space deep in the Albiceleste penalty area, but the Dutchman is incorrectly flagged offside as he looked to challenge for the ball. Plenty of nearly moments in this game thus far, but no goals or golden opportunities.

32' Sneijder whips in a near post corner, but Romero punches well clear and the rebound falls to Blind. The left wing-back pokes the ball back into the set piece taker, with the former Inter man aiming for De Vrij with his second delivery. Romero is quickly out to punch clear once again, commanding his 18-yard box authoritatively.

31' Netherlands hold onto possession, patiently working the ball across their central defenders to probe for a gap to exploit. Sabella's men, however, are plying their trade well, with the midfield trio of Mascherano, Biglia and Perez looking to be working fairly well and closing plenty of avenues for the Dutch.

29' Mascherano returns to the field, much to the relief of the majority of the stadium's crowd, but did look to be slightly dazed as he initially left the field of play. We're back underway, with around a quarter of an hour before the interval and this is a rather tight contest.

27' Mascherano goes down heavily after challenging for a header with Wijnaldum, receiving a blow to the head in the process. The physios are straight on, with the Argentine supporters and Sabella praying that their midfielder can continue, but it appeared that the Barca man briefly lost consciousness after trying to get up and carry on with the game.

Argentina's midfielder Enzo Perez (C) and Netherlands' defender Daley Blind vie for the ball during the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Argentina's midfielder Enzo Perez (C) and Netherlands' defender Daley Blind vie for the ball during the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

25' Van Persie is nearly picked out by an excellent lofted through ball by De Jong, but Garay does just enough to put off the Dutch striker! The Manchester United man gets contact on the delivery with his head, but can't re-create his wonder goal from the previous group match against Spain.

24' BIG CHANCE FOR GARAY! Lavezzi whips in a near post corner delivery, inviting the Zenit defender to attack the ball! He gets across Vlaar, but diverts the cross over the crossbar with his head, earning himself a kick to the face in the process.

23' Kuyt releases Van Persie down the right hand side, forcing the experienced striker to cut in a first-time cross while stretching. Garay manages to hoof away to start an Argentine counterattack, which results in another corner for Albiceleste. They're looking rather dangerous.

21' Plenty of midfield runners are causing a few problems for the Netherlands, though their three central defenders mean that there is usually a spare man present to press the ball. Lavezzi tries to deliver from the flank once again, but Martins Indi makes the block, before the resulting Argentine corner is cleared away by Van Persie.

20' Lavezzi whips in a back post cross from the right hand side, but Cillessen is easily able to rise and claim under no pressure. A confidence-boosting opening 20 minutes for the Dutch goalkeeper, who has been easily equal to everything Argentina have thrown at him.

19' No big chances thus far, with only Cillessen called into action out of the two goalkeepers. Argentina are holding their shape well and forcing the Dutch to try riskier passes than they are used to. Zabaleta breaks down the right and delivers a near post cross for Higuain, but De Vrij gets across his man well to clear behind for a corner.

17' Sneijder tries to spread the play, lifting a diagonal pass in behind Rojo for Kuyt to chase, but the utility man couldn't accelerate quickly enough to get anywhere near it. Argentina need to get tighter to Sneijder, he's the man who will pull the Dutch strings.

15' Messi manages to curl a low effort around the wall, but it is close enough to Cillessen to allow the Ajax goalkeeper to smother with ease. That'll do the Dutchman's confidence the world of good.

14' Perez is brought down cynically as Argentina look to break, giving away a free-kick within Messi range. Cillessen hurriedly organises a large wall, as he knows there is real danger for Oranje here.

13' Robben tries to break down the right hand side, but Mascherano slides in well to dispossess the winger. The loose ball bobbles to Kuyt, who cuts a first-time pass inside to Sneijder, which sits up nicely for the Galatasaray midfielder. He tries his luck with an ambitious half-volley, but it dips wide of the far post with Romero confident that it was going wide.

11' Argentina win a free-kick in a dangerous area, which Lavezzi delivers with his right foot in search of Demichelis. Van Persie heads half-clear, before Perez blasts the loose ball over the crossbar harmlessly from range.

9' Higuain goes on a bustling run, before shifting possession to Messi. The Barca man is robbed of the ball, but Argentina attack again. The Argentine talisman is picked out on the edge of the box once more, but Vlaar steps in to make a vital challenge as the forward tries to dig the ball out from under his feet.

Netherlands' midfielder Nigel de Jong (L) and Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi vie for the ball during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Netherlands' midfielder Nigel de Jong (L) and Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi vie for the ball during their semi-final match at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

8' As they showed against Costa Rica, the Dutch are prepared to be extremely patient with possession and leave it up to Sneijder to play incisive and sweeping passes. Neither team wants to give up an early mistake and risk a Brazil-esque capitulation in the first half.

6' Sneijder pokes a ball through for Robben, but Zabaleta recovers well to rob the Bayern winger of possession. It's a fairly cagey start to proceedings, though Argentina are being asked to take the attacking initiative by the Dutch. It seems Van Gaal's system favours counterattacks.

4' Sabella's side start the contest with more of the ball, but are quickly set upon by tight Dutch marking when they enter the opposition half. Mascherano is prepared to sit deep in the centre of midfield and pick passes, meaning that Rojo and Perez can foray forward.

2' Lavezzi is halted by an excellently timed tackle by De Vrij, as Oranje look to press and harry the opposition from the very start. Van Gaal's men seem organised and well-drilled as expected, with Argentine only able to hold onto possession in deep areas.

1' We are underway in the first half! Netherlands are in their famous orange, while the Albiceleste are also in their own home kit of light blue and white. Plenty of passion during the national anthems will hopefully translate into a fiery and energetic match! Argentina are wearing black armbands in respect for the recently deceased footballing legend, Alfredo di Stefano.

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Argentinian fans cheer before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Argentinian fans cheer before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

The stadium is packed, with plenty of Argentine fans making the journey to Brazil for tonight's clash. After the matter of both respective national anthems, we'll be able to get underway with all of the action, in what promises to be an exciting game! Both teams have made their way out onto the field, with plenty of expectation resting on Lionel Messi's shoulders as he strolls out into the afternoon sun!

There are certain doubts, however, of Robin van Persie's fitness ahead of this big clash. The Manchester United striker had a torrid time against Costa Rica, missing a sitter and striking the crossbar courtesy of a smart block from midfielder Yeltsin Tejada, and has picked up a stomach complaint in recent weeks. Despite training away from the rest of the Dutch squad, the 30-year-old starts and is presumably determined to repay Van Gaal's faith.

Plenty can be made of the Netherlands starting eleven, though Van Gaal has dubbed it his strongest possible side. After a brilliant performance against Costa Rica, Wesley Sneijder looks to be the man tasked with providing the inspiration from deeper areas for Oranje, while Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie need no introduction. Ezequiel Garay has shown his solidity during previous rounds, but Martin Demichelis could be a possible weak link for Argentina against quick Dutch counter-attacks.

The Netherlands are still chasing their first World Cup title win, with Oranje interestingly being able to get one over on each of the nations who denied them glory in finals in 1974, 1978 and 2010. Should Van Gaal's side fight their way to the trophy this time around in Brazil, they will have had to have beaten Germany, Argentina and Spain on their journey - the three countries who previously toppled them at the last hurdle.

Argentina substitutes: Campagnaro, Gago, Rodriguez, Orion, A. Fernandez, F. Fernandez, Palacio, Alvarez, Aguero, Andujar, Basanta.

Argentina starting line-up (4-3-3): Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo; Biglia, Mascherano, Perez; Messi, Higuain, Lavezzi.

Netherlands substitutes: Janmaat, De Guzman, Verhaegh, Veltman, Kongolo, Clasie, Lens, Fer, Huntelaar, Depay, Vorm, Krul.

Netherlands starting line-up (5-2-1-2): Cillessen; Kuyt, De Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Blind; De Jong, Wijnaldum; Sneijder; Van Persie, Robben.

TEAM NEWS: Angel di Maria isn't anywhere near fit enough to start, after leaving the field of play with a thigh injury last time out. As a result, Benfica midfielder Enzo Perez is slotted into a midfield three, with Lucas Biglia preferred to the sporadic quality of Fernando Gago. Gonzalo Higuain retains his place after his key goal against Belgium, with Lionel Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi in support. Sergio Aguero is only fit enough for the bench, while Marcos Rojo returns from suspension.

TEAM NEWS: Nigel de Jong returns to the starting eleven after limping out of the round of 16 game against Mexico with a thigh problem, while Jasper Cillessen retains his place in between the sticks as promised - despite Tim Krul's penalty shootout heroics last time out. Dirk Kuyt continues to be employed at right wing-back, as Van Gaal sticks with the same fluid formation which has served his side well thus far. Wesley Sneijder is given more of a free role behind Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.

Commentary: Goal dot com

Published: 2:31 am Thursday, July 10, 2014

Last modified: 10:18 pm Thursday, July 10, 2014

TAGS: Netherlands world cup Lionel Messi Brazil 2014 Argentia semi-final Arjen Robben Robin van Persie

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