Photo: Lionel Messi
Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero for Argentina in São Paulo Wednesday in the World Cup semifinal against the Netherlands, stopping the Dutch twice in a 4-2 penalty shootout to give his team a shot at winning its third championship.
The sides were knotted 0-0 at the end of 120 minutes.
The Dutch, who won on PKs for the first time ever in last Saturday’s quarterfinal against Costa Rica, went first in the penalty round.
Coach Louis van Gaal decided to go with defender Ron Vlaar - who doesn’t normally take penalties - as his first shooter.
Vlaar’s inexperience showed and Romero turned aside the shot.
Argentina led off with superstriker Lionel Messi, who didn’t disappoint. Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Agüero and Maxi Rodriguez also converted for the South American squad
Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt connected on their shots, but Romero stopped the usually deadly Wesley Sneijder to secure the victory.
Sunday’s contest with three-time World Cup winner Germany at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium will be Argentina’s fifth appearance in the final, including two battles with the Germans.
The South American side won in 1986; Germany got their revenge in 1990.
Wednesday’s semifinal in São Paulo was a reprise of the 1978 final, when Argentina hosted the World Cup for the first time, though the Dutch over the Argentines in a 1998 quarterfinal clash.
But what the 63,000-plus spectators at Arena Corinthians witnessed may have been the flattest match ever between the two traditional soccer heavyweights.
Both teams seemed more focused on defense than on creating offense and while Argentina had some solid chances, the Dutch didn’t get their first shot on goal until the overtime.