Argentina wins penalty shootout, advances to World Cup finals

(CBS) Germany, having destroyed Brazil 7-1, is likely blushing.

After 120 grueling minutes of steadfast defense, neither offensively gifted side could find the right sequence to break through and stake an advantage. Ultimately it was Argentinian keeper Sergio Romero who decided his team's fate, sending his team to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1990.

Romero stuffed a relatively poor attempt from Dutch defender Ron Vlaar on the opening round of penalty kicks, and made a diving save to his right against Wesley Sneijder (who was largely absent anyway from Wednesday's semifinal match) to give his side a decisive 2-1 advantage. Sergio Aguero nailed his next attempt while Dirk Kuyt kept Dutch hopes alive with his successful conversion, but staring at the goal, up 3-2, with a chance to send his side to the World Cup finals, Maxi Rodriguez delivered. Holland keeper Jasper Cillessen may have gotten a hand on the well-struck ball, aimed at the keeper's left, but it had too much pace and loft for him to do anything about it.

The high drama capped an otherwise extremely uneventul match, which saw chances for both sides few and far between. Netherlands striker Arjen Robben had a few close attempts at the start of the first extra time as all of Holland's sequences went through the aging veteran. Perhaps the results would've been different had Robin van Persie shown better in the box or had Sneijder connected a bit cleaner on a few set pieces. Holland's stars were largely its defenders, not its hallowed strikers. The same can be said for Argentina.

Messi was largely kept under wraps by roving midfielders Nigel de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum, while Javier Mascherano likely saved a late regulation goal with a sliding deflection off a Robben attempt inside the six. Argentina's best chance throughout the entire match came in the 114th minute from Rodrigo Palacio, but his header was struck directly at the Dutch keeper. Higuain, who scored against Belgium in the quartefinals, had a few cutting chances but the angles just weren't there.

The other storyline from Wednesday's game revolved around FIFA's continued ignorance towards the concussion issue. Javier Mascherano stayed in the game despite cracking heads with a defender and later stumbling to the ground. Pablo Zavaleta took a brutal shoulder to the face from Dirk Kuyt in extra time that left him on the ground for a few minutes as well. It's not clear whether they were each concussed, but both were allowed to continue as there's no concussion policy from FIFA. With Angel di Maria already missing today's semifinal, injuries could play a factor for Argentina in the final.

As it is, Argentina survived Wednesday's exhausting affair and will face Germany in the World Cup finals on Sunday.


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