Thursday, July 10, 2014

Argentina needed penalties (4-2) to dump the Dutch in 2014 Fifa World Cup

Playing for a finals berth, Argentina and Holland began the encounter in a cagey manner, probably with the 7-1 result of the other semi-final in mind. The South Americans patiently waited for the Dutch to come at them, but with both teams employing the same tactic, the Netherlands decided to press in midfield around the centre line.

They choked the supply line to Lionel Messi and avoided fouls around the edge of the penalty area and blocked the Zabaleta path on the right. They narrowed the playing field and squeezed the match into their comfort zone. On transition, they looked to pick a long ball into the pockets occupied by Robin van Persie.

Argentina insisted on playing on the right involving Zabaleta and Messi tried central runs towards goal. The Dutch had a plan of tripling up on him. Mascherano performed at the highest level as he anticipated each move and intercepted every ball played through and across midfield. He sprayed the passes to the front-runners and took charge of the middle of the park. His authority was complemented by the unexpected work-rate of Perez.

Perez worked well and hard and took the weight off the shoulders of Messi. This enabled the South Americans to take grip of the match in the second half as their attacks became more meaningful and threatening. Argentina pressed a little higher with the front players fore-checking and winning the ball as soon as it was lost. The longer the match progressed without the goal, matters changed and the match swung to the Dutch.

They took the match by the scruff of its neck with controlled forward movement. Both sides took single long-range shots and went to reserve mode. Arjen Robben got control of the ball and ran at the defenders, touching and keeping the ball for a little too long. Mascherano recovered and tapped the ball for a corner kick.

Substitutes, Palacious and Maxi Rodriguez had clear-cut chances to put the match away. The former got himself into the box after chasing a looping ball from midfield. Face to face with Cillisen, he rushed his headed attempt over the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper had fainted to comeout and forced the striker’s action, making it easy for himself to collect the weak header.

Messi had been quiet for a while as he suddenly appeared with a strong run from the right flank. His cross eluded all but Rodriguez tried a side-footed volley, an action that showed some indecision on his part. He could have controlled the ball and tucked it past the keeper.

While Messi spent most of the extra time marked out of the match, Robben created himself room by his mobility to various positions in front and midfield. He shifted to either wing and touched the ball as often as he liked. This made his threat real with every touch.

The penalty shootout failed to supply the Dutch drama as Romero stole the show with acrobatic saves of Vlaar and Sneijder penalty kicks. Although Robben and Kuyt converted, it was the clinical Argentinians who tucked in theirs successfully.Messi, Lavezzi, Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez converted to book a date with Germany in Maracana on the 13th of July 2014.