World Cup: Argentina in final as Van Gaal made to pay penalty

 
Frank Dalleres
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HOLLAND 0 ARGENTINA 0

AET, Arg win 4-2 on pens

ARGENTINA will meet Germany in Sunday’s World Cup final after Holland coach Louis van Gaal’s penalty shoot-out tactics backfired spectacularly last night in Sao Paulo.

Manchester United manager-to-be Van Gaal sent central defender Ron Vlaar up to take the first kick, only to see the Aston Villa player’s tame effort saved, and watched as goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen maintained his 100 per cent penalty failure rate while shoot-out specialist Tim Krul remained an unused substitute.

Argentina’s progress means Lionel Messi could capture the one major honour to elude him this weekend in Rio’s Maracana, the sacred home of bitter rivals Brazil. Germany will be favourites, however, following their 7-1 demolition of the hosts in Tuesday’s other semi-final.

The South Americans went into the match buoyed by the humiliation of hosts and neighbours just 24 hours earlier, yet without winger Angel di Maria, one of their most potent weapons at this tournament. By contrast, Holland captain Robin van Persie recovered from an 11th-hour fitness scare to start alongside midfield pitbull Nigel de Jong, whose tournament seemed over 10 days earlier.

While Germany had unleashed a torrent of early goals in Belo Horizonte there was barely a notable effort before half-time here, with Wesley Sneijder’s hopeful volley sailing wide and a Messi free-kick saved without ceremony by Cillessen.

Holland’s primary objective of shackling Messi and Argentina’s reluctance to commit extra men to attack resulted in a stalemate that only threatened to crack in the 91st minute, when Sneijder’s deft flick released Robben in the box, only for Javier Mascherano to make a last-ditch tackle as the winger dithered.

It took until the ninth minute of extra-time for the Dutch to muster a shot on target, a trademark Robben left-foot effort, but as penalties approached Argentina had two chances to win it. First Rodrigo Palacio failed to get power in his header when alone in the box, and then Maxi Rodriguez miscued a volley from Messi’s dinked cross.

Van Gaal used his final substitution in the 96th minute, meaning Newcastle keeper Krul, who saved two penalties when brought on solely for the quarter-final shoot-out against Costa Rica, could only watch as Argentina ensured a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 final line-up.

Vlaar was not the only villain; Sneijder’s shot was saved too, and, having seen Messi, Ezequiel Garay and Sergio Aguero score with ease, Dutch supporters might ponder why Cillessen did not stop Maxi Rodriguez’s decisive fourth spot-kick, having got a full hand to it.

HOW WORLD REACTED TO HOSTS’ THRASHING

GERMANY’S thrashing of Brazil in Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final did not just break a swathe of footballing records – it also generated huge interest on social and traditional media.

The 7-1 drubbing was the most discussed live sport event of all time on Twitter, with users writing 35.6m posts about the historic match. The previous record had been this year’s Super Bowl, which prompted 24.9m tweets.

Brazil’s humiliation was the most popular World Cup talking point on Facebook, where 66m users took part in 200m interactions – comments, posts or likes.

The game attracted the largest British television audience for a non-England game at the tournament, with a peak of 14m tuning into BBC One.

Germany’s press delighted in the result, newspaper TZ summing up the mood with the headline “Ein Traum” – A Dream.

Brazil’s Metro, meanwhile, went for a black image featuring the scoreboard.

Agora lamented Brazil’s “greatest humiliation in 100 years of history”.

“Shame” read the simple headline on the front of Correio Na Copa, another Brazilian publication.