Argentina uses penalty kicks to down Dutch

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates with teammate Mariano Andujar (back) following their win in...

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates with teammate Mariano Andujar (back) following their win in penalty kicks over Netherlands at the end of their World Cup semifinal match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:46 PM ET

SAO PAULO - Now that Argentina has made the World Cup final, the big question is how?

How did they get there? How did this team that showed very little in this tournament manage to squeeze into the final of one of the better World Cups in recent memory?

How, after barely surviving a weak schedule, did Argentina manage to beat the Netherlands who, along with Germany, was the best team in the tournament?

How?

"It doesn't matter," said Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella, likely because he isn't sure either. "We have crossed the Rubicon. We have come to the end. We did it and that is all that's important. Let us see how we do."

He's right. In the end it is the result that counts.

Argentina pulled what can only be considered an upset Wednesday, defeating the Netherlands 4-2 on kicks from the penalty spot after drawing 0-0 following 90 minutes and extra time.

Argentina will play Germany Sunday for a chance to win its third World Cup title.

This is the first time Argentina has been in the final since 1990 when they lost to Germany. Four years earlier, Argentina defeated Germany in Mexico City to win its second World Cup.

"You are trying to scare me," Sabella said when he was asked about Germany. "You are trying to put fear in me. There are two teams that I respect the way they play soccer ... Brazil and Germany. Now we have one less day to prepare for Germany but we will do the best we can."

What was scary was the game. Considering what Argentina and the Netherlands showed in the semifinal, Germany certainly doesn't have any reason to lose any sleep.

But Argentina has been a master of survival in this tournament.

It was the second game in succession the Netherlands had to go to penalties. They eliminated Costa Rica in the quarterfinal when they switched goaltenders, using Tim Krul instead of Jasper Cillessen.

But Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal went with Cillessen this time after using all his substitutions.

The Argentines were perfect on their four shots with Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriquez finding the net.

Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands were stopped by Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

"I was thinking of a lot of things," Romero said. "I was thinking of my teammates and how much they were counting on me and how much they ran to me to support me. It was very emotional."

The kicks were actually the most exiting part of the match.

The game lacked anything that remotely resembled entertainment or quality. Passes flew 10 yards over the heads of players, there was missed ball control, star players were playing like chumps and there was a cynicism in tackling from both teams that ended whatever flow might have been established before the game got going.

No one showed any sort of drive to finish off their opponent.

It wasn't unusual for Argentina to play that way. It's the way they've played almost the entire tournament.

"It was the same for both teams," Sabella said. "I thought we had better scoring chances and the game was even. If they had won, I would have said the same thing. I thought we played like a team and I was very happy about that."

The Dutch had so much to play for and so many ghosts to vanquish. Still, they were stunning in their mediocrity. This was as good a chance as any for the Dutch to finally win a title.

And the Netherlands could have completed its cycle of revenge in this World Cup.

First Spain, then Argentina and Germany, the three teams that have beaten the Netherlands in finals, could have all been victims.

Instead, after a 5-1 hammering of Spain in the first group game in Brazil, they'll go home again falling short in a tournament in which they should have done better.

They lacked fire and showed an inability to close the deal on the big stage. There are reasons why they are never the bride, always the bridesmaid.

"Right now I don't feel happy that we had a good tournament and lost," Van Gaal said. "I don't feel that we accomplished what we wanted. We wanted to go to the final and no matter how well we played before, we did not go to the final."

It was galling for Van Gaal to know that Argentina was just as poor as his club yet is going to the final.

It's clear that Germany must be licking its chops at the idea of playing this Argentina team.

But seeing Argentina in the final should sound a klaxon alert to Germany.

Anything can happen.


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