“El Fideo” aka the skinny one in Spanish was injured and left watching from the sidelines. He has arguably been Argentina’s best player in the World Cup but he was ruled out for the semifinal. Luckily, yesterday was Sergio Romero’s day. The 27 year old goalkeeper, who plays his club football for Monaco in the Ligue 1 in France, was Argentina’s savior. Romero had two huge saves in the Penalty Kick shootout. One came and Vlaar’s first attempt (RVP probably would have made it) and the second on Wesley Sneijder’s rocket. These two saves book Argentina’s ticket to the Maracana in Rio for a chance to win the Cup in enemy territory to spite their bitter rivals (Brazil). Many called the match an evenly played one while reflecting on the scoreless 120 minutes of regular time. Both the Dutch and Argentine defenses had solid outings while most thought Vlaar’s play for Holland was the X-factor that contained Messi and kept the Oranje in the match. Others thought the Dutch had the edge in possession and created the better scoring chances.
What happened to RVP? Robin Van Persie did not look fit in this semifinal match and had to be substituted in the 96th minute (for Huntelaar). Many had said that he had previously been battling flu like symptoms. His play left a lot to be desired. Robben made many of his long, pacy runs up the wing to threaten the albiceleste but Romero and the defense (led by Garay) seemed destined to derail all of them.
When all was said and done, it was the old and wily veteran, Maxi Rodriguez, of the Newell’s Old Boys Club in Argentina who blasted the finally penalty through against Cillessen to end the match. This was a bittersweet moment for the former Liverpool star who is still famous for his “golazo” against Mexico in the 2006 German World Cup but at the tail end of his career after no one really wanted him to continue playing in Europe a few years ago. So some may ask, “Why didn’t Van Gaal save the Krul sub for a possible PK shootout late in the match?” He said post match that RVP’s substitute put him in a precarious situation because he had no subs left after the RVP removal and wanted to put Krul in for that exact PK situation. Who knows if Van Gaal’s managing tactics were as solid as in previous matches?
Now, Argentina will get to face the Joachim Low’s German Machine on Sunday afternoon for the finale. Germany steamrolled Brazil 7-1 in one of the craziest World Cup matches I’ve seen in some time. They will be well rested, focused, and determined to try to bring home their 4th World Cup. They faced Argentina in the 1990 World Cup in Italy where they prevailed 1-0 in Rome. Both teams also met in the 1986 final in Mexico where Maradona guided the Argentines to a 3-2 victory over the Germans.
The #1 question is….Can the Germans stop Messi? Other lingering questions also exist like: Will DiMaria play? Will Kun Aguero be fully fit? Can the Germans continue to score and dominate possession? Argentina will surely be the underdog to the German side as Germany comes in as the second best team in the world and was only once looking somewhat vulnerable (in the Algeria match). Thomas Muller has been the driving force behind the team, netting 5 goals in the Cup this far (only trailing James Rodriguez’s 6 goals) and firing shots left and right. Klose (the all-time leading scorer in WC history) has been used by Low as a supersub to go along with young starts like Kroos, Ozil, Khedira to pester keepers throughout the matches they’ve played. When you’ve got the majority of the German stars playing for Bayern Munich and the rest playing for top tier clubs in England, Germany, Italy, and Spain, this team is hard to stop and contain.
Prediction: I’d like to see Messi work some magic and make this game interesting. If Kun Aguero and Higuain both start (not likely) they could have three top goal scorers putting pressure on the defense. The blue and whites could get opportunities to move around the middle but beating Nauer (the German Keeper) is no easy feat. Unfortunately, the German tiki-taka is well organized and their possession is marvelous. I predict a 2-1 final score with goals by Ozil, Muller, and Messi. The Pope (an Argentine) is praying for an upset and who knows, maybe Brazil is too?