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Nerveless Argentina ends Netherlands' run

The second semi final match of the Brazil 2014 World Cup, pitches Netherlands against Argentina. The Argentine side, despite their array of attacking talents have not really impressed in the finals but churned out results through their sheer mental toughness and the ingenuity of their star player; Lionel Messi. Netherlands on the other hand, set the tone for an entertaining World Cup with their 5:1 thumping of the defending Champions; Spain in an unbelievably dominant display in their opening game. They have also gone on to show dynamism and flair in winning difficult matches from the bench, with tactical substitutions from their maverick coach; Louis Van Gaal.

Are we going to see another one sided encounter like the Germany Vs. Brazil game? I don’t think so. I believe that Netherlands have that extra verve that can see them through to their second finals in a row and set up an all European final. Their chances were boosted by having Robin Van Persie and Nigel De Jong recover from illness and injury respectively, to make the team. Argentina would however miss the influential Angel Di Maria through injury but Sergio Aguero makes the bench on his return from a thigh injury sustained in their 2nd round march against Nigeria.

The game kicked off with the two sides sizing each other up in a cautious start to the game. The Dutch side gradually starts to grow into the game with Robben the danger man in attack. Argentina’s attack on the 9th minute through Messi and Higuain is smothered and the Dutch team looked to counter through Robben. Lavezzi’s free kick on the 10th minute is headed out by Van Persie, who had gone back to defend the set piece. Mascherano does well to shadow Robben’s run and Sneijder’s shot goes wide thereafter.

Messi’s dangerous free kick on the 14th minute is saved by Cillessen as the ding dong affair continues. Messi’s influence grows as the game progresses and Cillessen collects coolly from Lavezzi’s shot off a corner. Lavezzi’s corner kick on the 20th minute is headed out by Van Persie. Mascherano releases the enterprising Lavezzi on the 22nd minute but Kuyt clears his dangerous cross.

Argentina wins another corner but Vlaar does well to disrupt Garay’s header. Mascherano goes down after a clash of heads with Wijnaldum. Lavezzi have been lively and giving Martins Indi a hectic time, on the right. Argentina’s pressure grows in the closing minutes of the first half but the Dutch maintain their defensive discipline.

Sneijder’s free kick on the 42nd minute is cleared and the Dutch work the ball back to patiently restart their passes. Martins Indi picks up a yellow on the 44th minute for a foul on Messi and sets up yet another free kick for Argentina, which Cillessen collects. Messi releases Rojo with a fine pass from deep but the Dutch defence clears the danger. The first half of a cagey encounter ends goalless.

The second half starts with Janmaat coming on for the cautioned Martins Indi with the versatile Kuyt moving to the left. Demichelis picks up a yellow for a foul on Robben on the 48th minute but Sneijder’s free kick goes over. A long ball from Mascherano releases Messi on the 50th minute but Cillessen was quick to smother before the flag went up for offside. Robben takes off on a rare run on the 53rd minute but Biglia tracks well and wins the ball.

Perez releases Messi on the 55th minute, but the imperious Vlaar tackles and wins the ball. Zabaleta finds Lavezzi on the 58th minute but Janmaat denies Higuain from connecting with a header. Robben releases Janmaat on the 60th minute but he overruns the ball as Van Gaal brings on Clasie for De Jong. Clasie is looking impressive with his passing range, another inspired substitution by Van Gaal? Time would tell.

Lavezzi bursts into the box on the 70th minute but Vlaar clears. Vlaar fouls Higuain and Messi’s free kick goes wide. An overly efficient game we are having here, with Messi and Robben stifled. Nice play by the Dutch as Robben’s reverse pass releases Janmaat but Van Persie is caught offside. Higuain ripples the side netting in a fine move on the counter. Blind is fouled on the 76th minute but Sneijder’s free kick is over hit.

Rojo clears a pinging ball in the box on the 80th minute as Palacio and Aguero are brought on for Perez and Higuain respectively. Rojo’s shot on the 83rd minute is well saved by Cillessen. Robben wins a corner off Demichelis but Sneijder’s effort is cleared. Messi releases Aguero on the 86th minute but Kuyt tracks back to clear. Demichelis strides forward on the 89th minute but his pass to Aguero is intercepted. Kuyt releases Robben in the final minute but the majestic Mascherano slides in to stop him from taking the vital shot. Garay clears from a Janmaat cross as the Dutch pressure intensifies. The game ends goalless and extra time is on the way.

First half of extra time kicks off. Sneijder is fouled by Biglia on the 3rd minute of extra time but the free kick is cleared. Kuyt releases Van Persie but Demichelis clears as Hunteleer is brought on for Van Persie. Robben drives into the box and wins a corner off Mascherano on the 6th minute. Robben drives in and strikes on the 8th minute but Romero saves. Argentina brings on Maxi Rodriguez for Lavezzi on the 10th minute of extra time. Huntelaar is cautioned on the 14th minute for a foul on Mascherano but Cillessen punches away Messi’s free kick. Janmaat clears Palacio’s dangerous cross for Aguero as the first half of extra time comes to an end.

The second half of extra time starts with the composed Cillessen toying with Aguero in the box. Zabaleta receives treatment after collision with Kuyt. De Vrij’s speculative shot on the 20th minute, goes wide. Palacio sneaks in on the 24th minute but Cilessen saves his weak header. Messi crosses under pressure from Vlaar but Rodriguez’s shot is saved by Cillessen. The game ends goalless… A defensive masterclass for 120 minutes ensures that the two sides could not be separated and we move on to penalties to decide a winner.

Vlaar steps up for the first kick and Romero saves; Netherlands 0: Argentina 0.

Messi scores for Argentina; Netherlands 0: Argentina 1.

Robben scores with absolute precision; Netherlands 1: Argentina 1.

Garay scores emphatically; Netherlands 1: Argentina 2.

Remero pulls off a fantastic save from Sneijder; Netherlands 1: Argentina 2.

Aguero scores to stretch Argentina’s advantage; Netherlands 1: Argentina 3.

Kuyt scores to make it Netherlands 2: Argentina 3.

Maxi Rodriguez scores to win it; Netherlands 2: Argentina 4.

Argentina are through to the final and have a date with Germany at the Maracana. A disciplined defensive performance from both sides with the Argentines showing no nerves and winning the penalty shootout.

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About Kene Okoye

A creative writer, banker, pianist, composer and music promoter, Kene documents events and presents his viewpoint in compelling narratives. He sets out to create vivid pictures with his intelligent use of words and seeks to engage, thrill, educate and inspire the reader. Come on and enjoy yourself.

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