Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Argentina Survives and Heads to World Cup Final Match
Argentina will head to the title match of the World Cup for the fifth time in team history after outlasting the Netherlands in a semifinal duel.
A penalty kick shootout was needed in order to break a scoreless deadlock between two teams that had been undefeated throughout the tournament. Los Albicelstes converted all four of their spot kicks while goalkeeper Sergio "El Chiquito" Romero emerged as man of the match by blocking attempts by Ron Vlaar and Wesley Snejder.
Prior to the penalties both sides had few offensive chances during the 120 minutes of play amid rainy conditions in Sao Paulo. Lionel Messi was largely quiet throughout the semifinal aside from a free kick bullet straight into the arms of Oranje goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. The Argentine defense smothered what few opportunities the Netherlands could conjure up especially Javier Mascherano who ruined a pair of dangerous runs in the penalty area by Arjen Robben.
The two-time champions generated very little on the attack but could’ve won the match in the second extra time period when Cillessen blocked Rodrigo Palacio’s close range header and a weak volley from Maxi Rodriguez. Unlike their quarterfinal match against the overachieving Costa Ricans, the Dutch faltered in the penalty shootout much to the delight of the scores of Argentine fans at the Arena Corinthians.
Argentina will face Germany in the final match for the third time in World Cup history. (Los Albicelstes captured the crown in 1986 though Germany gained revenge four years later).
“It’s an immense joy. In reality it’s luck,” admitted a relived Romero following the match. “To the forty million Argentines a message: Enjoy this moment,” he added.
“We came into the game of our lives and now we will enjoy it because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” noted Mascherano. The defender played the entire match even though he may have suffered a concussion similar to that of Uruguay’s Alvaro Periera in the group stage.
“We’re going home defeated,” said Dutch coach Louis van Gaal at a press conference following the semifinal. He even referred to Brazil’s humiliating elimination in Tuesday’s semifinal by observing, “Losing via penalties is the same as losing 7-1.” (The Netherlands will face the host country Brazil in the third-place match on Saturday).
As to be expected, Argentinians celebrated in the streets nationwide after Romero’s final save including tens of thousands at iconic Obelisk of Buenos Aires.
“We deserve to live this moment,” noted Luciano Martínez, one of those that took part in the festivities at the Argentine capital city.
“After the era of (Argentine soccer superstar Diego) Maradona we are finally shining bright at the World Cup,” he added amid the joy that coincidentally occurred on Argentina's Independence Day.
The Netherlands-Argentina clash was preceded by a moment of silence for Argentine soccer legend Alfredo Di Stefano who passed away on Monday. Los Albicelste players wore black armbands in honor of the soccer great that never got the chance to play in a World Cup.
Video Source – YouTube user ezewer88
Online Sources – Globo.com; Buenos Aires Herald; El Universal; Folha.com; Goal.com; The Latin Americanist; La Nacion; CNN; FIFA