After Tuesday night’s semi-final, last night’s clash between Holland and Argentina was always going to be an anti-climax.
It was billed as Arjen Robben vs Lionel Messi, but in the end it was more like Sergio Romero vs Jasper Cillessen, as the game went to penalty kicks.
The Argentine keeper came out on top and the Albiceleste claimed their place in the final against Germany on Sunday night.
In truth the 120 minutes of normal and extra-time produce very little action of note, with both teams looking like they were scared to be defeated.
Defences very much came out in top in this goalless draw.
There were question marks over the Argentinian defence prior to the World Cup, but they are proving a very solid unit, especially with Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano patrolling in front of him.
Mascherano subdued the Dutch attack from his defensive midfield position and made some crucial interceptions when needed. The likes of Marcos Rojo, Martin Demichelis, Ezequiel Garay and Pablo Zabaleta were also very solid.
The Holland defence has looked shaky at times during the tournament, but Aston Villa centre-back Ron Vlaar marshalled the Oranje’s defence superbly last night and snuffed out any danger the Argentine attack offered.
The only complaint anybody could have with the former-Feyenoord defenders display was maybe his spot-kick was poor. However, I would argue that a centre-back who is not a regular penalty taker should not be first to take a penalty in a shootout.
Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi is still considered by many as the best player in the world, but the 27-year-old was disappointing in last night’s clash, although he did have a few decent runs, his influence was negated by shadow Nigel de Jong for the first hour of the game.
After that he struggled to make the impact that he was so desperate to make. In extra time he looked like he was struggling with a knock.
It was a similar sort of story for Dutch star Arjen Robben. The former-Chelsea star only had one real opening, but Mascherano produced a fantastic challenge to prevent the Bayern forward even getting a shot away.
Neither player had the influence on the game that they were expected to and that was reflected in the score line. Robben will be more disappointed in his performance, as at least Messi now has the final to look forward to.
Both players scored from the penalty spot in the shootout, but Robben’s effort meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, as Argentina keeper Sergio Romero saved Vlaar’s and Wesley Sneijder’s efforts.
Sunday’s final will be a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 World Cup finals. Argentina claimed a 3-2 victory in Mexico in 86 and the Germans got their revenge in Italia 90 with a 1-0 win. The 1990 final was the Albiceleste’s most recent.
Germany has also only made the final once since that game, in 2002, when they were defeated 2-0 by Brazil. Both of these countries have been short on silverware in recent years. Germany last won silverware back in 1996 when they won the European Championships in England.
Argentina’s last silverware came 21 years ago, when they won the Copa America in Ecuador, which is a long time considering the amount of talented players have represented the Albiceleste in those 21 years.
Germany will be favourites to win the World Cup final after their devastating 7-1 defeat of hosts Brazil in the semi-final. Joachim Low’s side looked strong, even if the host nation were terrible. Germany will be confident of lifting the trophy for the first time in 24 years.
Argentina will have to perform better in the final if they are to lift the trophy. They cannot afford to let the final go to penalties, because as we all know the Germans tend to be pretty good at penalty shootouts.
Hopefully the final will be a happy median between the two semi-finals and produce a competitive game, but preferably with more goal mouth action than last night’s game or we could be in for a very dull night indeed.
Can Argentina defeat Germany in Sunday’s World Cup final?