The second Semi-Final was always going to struggle to shine after the events of Tuesday night and indeed the ninety minutes of normal time were as damp as the weather conditions in Sao Paulo.
None of the ‘big’ names stood out as even the basics seemed to be beyond both teams at times. However, the Dutch ended the stronger of the sides in ninety minutes and Robben was denied a late winner by an excellent block tackle from Mascherano.
The first period of extra-time brought no chances for either team despite the fact the game was becoming stretched. Eventually, Argentina woke up with five minutes to go in the second period, when Palacio had a chance, but he tamely headed into the hands of Cillessen. Almost immediately a rare break from Messi created a chance for Maxi Rodriguez, but his shot lacked power. And that was that…and so to penalties.
With the Dutch having made all their substitutions, there was no option for them to bring on the penalty hero Krul. Therein lies a conundrum. If van Gaal hadn’t used all his substitutes would he have brought Krul on again? If it worked once why wouldn’t it work again if the coach believed (as he stated) in the reasoning of using a keeper with better height and reach? For me, Cillessen was left in a difficult position as he was under pressure to perform given Krul’s exploits. In these penalties though it was the Argentinian keeper Sergio Romero who was the hero with penalty saves from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder. It was another blow to hosts Brazil as their arch-rivals made it through to the showpiece event.
So no repeat of the ’74 Final in Munich, but a repeat of the Finals from Mexico in 1986 and Italy in 1990 as Germany take on Argentina on Sunday. For the shell-shocked Brazilians and the Netherlands they have the ‘pleasure’ of the 3rd/4th Place Play-off fixture on Saturday.
One last effort gents and we are nearly there.