It wasn’t quite the spectacle we had hoped for before kick-off and then it proved to be downright dull. Both teams seemed to have an inherent fear of being defeated which ultimately led to one of them being defeated anyway. That one, unfortunately for the Dutch, was the Netherlands. Coach Louis van Gaal had notified everyone that he had been instructed by the KNVB to guide the Netherlands to the minimum requirement of the semi-finals, which he duly did. However, looking back on this game I’m sure he’d be looking back on it as a lost opportunity.
Argentina on the other hand created some chances but they were also guilty of not really committing to the win. As the 90 minute mark approached both teams seemed contented to settle for the 0-0 and take the game to a further 30 minutes. As it wore on, it seemed inevitable that the game would be going to penalties and thus the lottery of which keeper could make the difference.
Mascherano epitomised the sheer determination and ruthless ability to place a stranglehold on the Dutch strike force that ultimately paved the way to victory. His patrolling runs in front of the Argentinian back four, notably marking Dutch danger man Arjen Robben out of the game allowed the Argentinians to set up a platform based on the philosophy of “You’re not going to score today”. It was really quite simple.
Uncharacteristically, the Netherlands hadn’t scored a single goal in 240 minutes of knockout football since the two late goals scored to knock Mexico out in the Round of 16. Captain and talisman Robin van Persie was unusually quiet against Costa Rica and Argentina, his usual movement not up to the usual standards, which effectively allowed the Costa Ricans and the Argentinians to push up and blunt the Dutch attacking style.
The penalty shoot-out had me and pretty much everyone baffled – Ron Vlaar first penalty kick taker? This was completely unexpected and ultimately it cost them the chance to go through. Fair play to Vlaar for having the guts to walk up and take it but a defender is never to be the best choice to put a penalty past a good quality goalkeeper from 12 yards. Van Gaal had said after the match had ended that two players had refused to take that first penalty leaving Vlaar who did have a very good game as the only choice due to him being ‘full of confidence’. Nuts indeed.
It’s something a little different for the Goal of the Day as we’ve awarded it to a goalkeeper; not for scoring but for keeping them out. His two saves in the penalty shoot-out ensured that Argentina made it through to their first World Cup final since 1990 and subsequently have the chance to win the World Cup in their bitterest International rivals backyard. Keep your fingers crossed for the Germans, Brazil!
A major gripe is the way it always turns out; there are no grudge matches. Matches like Brazil v Argentina in the final or even the 3rd Place Playoff and Germany v Holland in the same scenarios. Even then the 3rd Place Playoff would have been worth watching.
Categories: world cup