Argentina edged a nervy penalty shoot-out 4-2 against the Netherlands to set up a World Cup final with Germany after a dire goalless draw.
Both sides showed little ambition to commit players forward in a cagy encounter, with neither goalkeeper forced to make a meaningful save in normal time.
Arjen Robben had the clearest chance of the 90 minutes, but, having exchanged passes with Wesley Sneijder in the dying minutes, he took a touch too many and Javier Mascherano managed to get back at him to slide in and avert the danger.
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The game opened out in extra-time as Rodrigo Palacio and Maxi Rodriguez forced Jasper Cillessen into routine stops, before Dirk Kuyt cannoned a half-volley into an opponent with just seconds remaining.
It was Argentina who held their nerve from the spot, scoring all four of their penalties with stopper Sergio Romero saving from Ron Vlaar and Sneijder.
Manager Louis van Gaal has been rightly lauded for his tactical nous throughout this World Cup but the decision to send Vlaar up to take the first kick backfired with penalty specialists Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben surely better alternatives.
KEY MOMENTS
23’ HALF CHANCE - Lavezzi whips the corner in and Garay dives in to head over under pressure from Vlaar.
45+1’ POOR BALL - Messi finds Rojo in space with Higuain lurking in the centre of the box but the full-back over-hits the cross with the Dutch all over the place. That was a chance.
58‘ - HALF CHANCE - Lavezzi finds some space down the right and he manages to work a yard of space before lifting a ball into the box. Higuain rises and looks set to head on goal but Janmaat manages to get his head to it first.
90’ – GREAT TACKLE! Robben bursts through the Argentina defence following a lay-off from Sneijder but takes the extra touch and Mascherano comes marauding across with an unbelievable tackle. Corner.
115 – GILT-EDGED - THAT WAS THE CHANCE Palacio finds himself in on goal. He panics though and tries to head the ball over Cillessen, who claims with ease.
116’ – ANOTHER CHANCE - Messi evades two challenges down the left and he lifts a ball to the back post for Maxi Rodriguez. He hits a tame volley into the ground and it fails to threaten the goal of Cillessen
PENALTIES
NED 0-0 ARG: SAVED - Vlaar’s penalty is saved by Romero, who guesses the right way. The penalty was tame and pretty central.
NED 1-2 ARG: SAVED - Sneijder has his penalty saved. It was in the corner but at a decent height and Romero tips it wide.
NED 2-4 ARG: WINNERS - Maxi Rodriguez thunders his effort in. Cillessen gets a hand to it but it is in. Argentina score all of their spot kicks – you can’t ask for more than that!

Argentina celebrate victory

Image credit: PA Sport

KEY STATS
Argentina have progressed from all four of their World Cup semi-finals.
Argentina have won four of their five penalty shootouts at the World Cup.
The Netherlands have lost both of their semi-final shootouts (the first coming vs Brazil in 1998).
Seven of the 14 knockout games at this tournament so far have gone to extra time, the most since 1990 when eight did.
The Netherlands failed to register a shot on target in the opening 90 minutes, taking until the 99th minute to have an effort on target.
This was the first World Cup semi-final to end 0-0 (including extra-time).
Arjen Robben attempted just one pass in the first half against Argentina.
Ezequiel Garay made 15 clearances in this game, the most by an Argentinian at this tournament.
Only Michel Vorm is yet to make an appearance at this World Cup from the Dutch squad.
Argentina still haven’t trailed at any point during this World Cup.
Argentina have lost just one of their last 17 World Cup games (W12 D4, not including penalty shoot-outs).
Jasper Cillessen has faced 8 penalties in Eredivisie, 3 in the CL and 6 in World Cup football but has saved none of them.
Cillessen did, however, make two successful dribbles in the game.
South American teams have won eight of their ten shoot outs against countries from other continents.
It will be the third time that Argentina and Germany have contested the World Cup final (1986 and 1990), a record.
Lionel Messi did not touch the ball in the penalty area during the 120 minutes.
Netherlands came close to becoming the first team to fail to score in their quarter-final and semi-final and still make the World Cup final.

Romero Messi Olanda Argentina 2014 AFP

Image credit: AFP

TALKING POINT
Why did Van Gaal send Vlaar up first? If it worked he is a genius but it didn’t and the rule of averages say you should send your most adept penalty takers up first. Van Gaal has been superb this tournament but ultimately that decision has cost them
MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS
MAN OF THE MATCH
Javier Mascherano (Argentina): Just beats Ron Vlaar to it, who was also superb. Much has been made of Argentina’s reliance on Lionel Messi but this man is just as important. He is utterly integral to the way this side plays and showed that again with the slide tackle in the last minute or normal time.
PLAYER RATINGS
Netherlands: Cillessen 6; Kuyt 6, De Vrij 6, Vlaar 9, Martins Indi 5, Blind 6; De Jong 6, Sneijder 5, Wijnaldum 7; Robben 7, Van Persie 7. Subs: Janmaat 6, Clasie 6, Huntelaar 6.
Argentina: Romero 8, Zabaleta 6, Demichelis 6, Garay 7, Rojo 6, Perez 6, Biglia 6, Mascherano 9, Lavezzi 7, Messi 6, Higuain 6. Subs: Palacio 5, Aguero 5, Maxi Rodríguez 5.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET
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