The Netherlands had answer for Lionel Messi all game, but they couldn't come up with one for Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who made two saves in a penalty shootout to send Argentina through to the 2014 World Cup final.
After a 0-0 draw through 120 minute, Argentina scored all four of their penalties, while Romero saved shots from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder to put away the Dutch, 4-2
Argentina will meet Germany in the final on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro in what will be a rematch of the 1986 and 1990 World Cup Finals. Argentina took the title home in '86, with the Germans getting their revenge four years later.
ROMERO THE HERO: Sergio Romero had to come up huge to make sure a South American team made it to the final at the Maracana as Alejandro Sabella’s team beat the Dutch on penalties.
SAVE ROMERO!!!!! Wow, what a start for Argentina. Vlaar looks stunned. Romero guessed right.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 9, 2014
CILLESSEN IT IS: With penalties threatening Louis van Gaal decided not to leave his last sub for a ‘keeper substitution. Instead he opted to bring Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for Robin van Persie in the 96th minute as his third sub. He previously used subs at halftime and the 62nd minute to bring on Daryl Janmaat and Jordy Clasie.
0 - Jasper Cillessen has faced 8 penalties in Eredivisie, 3 in the CL and 2 in World Cup football but has saved none of them. Challenge.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 9, 2014
ALMOST ROBBEN: The introductions of Sergio Aguero and Rodrigo Palacio in the last 10 minutes of regulation opened up the game, allowing for a few more chances than the first 80. Netherlands got its best chance of the game in the 91st minute when Wesley Sneijder put Arjen Robben through on goal with a flicked pass. It looked like he was one-on-one with the goalie but Javier Mascherano made a great effort to snuff out Robben’s shot.
Stellar tracking by Mascherano. #ARG— Kyle McCarthy (@kylejmccarthy) July 9, 2014
HIGUAIN SAVED: The first great chance of the game came in the 75th minute when Enzo Perez curled a cross to the near post. Gonzalo Higuain was able to get on the end of it but did not get it on frame, hitting the side netting. He was (incorrectly) called offside by the assistant referee, which may have given him some solace.
STARS SHUT OUT: The game's three stars, Messi, Robben, and van Persie, did not get off their blocks in the first half. Messi was man-marked by Nigel De Jong through the first 60 minutes, not allowing to get comfortable at any time. The two Dutch stars combined for just 17 total touches in the half, the lowest two totals of all 22 players on the field.
Not sure kids should watch this match. De Jong is under instructions to put his foot through Messi's heart if he starts to seem dangerous— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) July 9, 2014
Impressive first half for plucky Houston Dynamo holding Lionel Messi's Argentina scorless— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) July 9, 2014
HEADACHE: One of the game's most controversial incidents came after Mascherano and Georginio Wijnaldum collided heads while going up for the ball, forcing Mascherano off the field. He appeared to have suffered a concussion after the collision and while he was being assessed by team doctors, but returned to the field just a minute later. This comes after Alvaro Pereira was allowed back on the field for Uruguay after he appeared to suffer his own concussion earlier in the tournament.
Mascherano is back on, because nobody has learned anything.— Alexander Abnos (@AnAbnos) July 9, 2014
LINEUP RETURNS: He was previously ruled out for the rest of the World Cup, but de Jong returned to Louis van Gaal’s starting lineup for this game. He replaced Memphis Depay in the XI with van Gaal opting for a more defensive approach against Messi and co. Marcos Rojo also returned to his starting spot after he was forced to miss the game against Belgium due to yellow card accumulation. He took his spot back from Jose Maria Basanta, who had a solid game against the Red Devils.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Javier Mascherano, midfielder, Argentina. Despite his earlier head injury, Mascherano was the focal point of Argentina’s team throughout the second half and extratime. He also provided the defensive play of the game when he blocked Robben’s shot.