The first half was remarkably free of threat. Ron Vlaar fouled Enzo Pérez just outside the top of the penalty area, giving Argentina a very dangerous opportunity with a free kick, but Lionel Messi drilled it right into Jasper Cillessen's chest. Arjen Robben was all but invisible, Argentina were playing a somewhat surprisingly active defense, and Ezequiel Lavezzi was asserting himself offensively for the White and Blue. That forced the Netherlands to pull back into more of a defensive formation than they'd intended, and by the end of the half there had only been four shots taken, only one by the Dutch, and only one on goal -- Messi's free kick.
The second half got more exciting. Martín Demichelis got a yellow for hauling down Robben, who for a change wasn't diving at all; shortly afterward Cillessen made a dangerous charge out of his box to halt an attack and came terrifyingly close to scoring an own goal. Both teams had a couple of near-misses, but as the 90-minute mark approached the game was still scoreless. It remained that way throughout extra time, so after winning against Mexico on a last-minute penalty and beating Costa Rica on penalties, the Dutch were at it again.
Sergio Romero saved against both Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder, which put the Netherlands on the gallows. On their fourth try, Maxi Rodriguez stepped to the line for Argentina. Cillessen guessed right, and got both hands on the ball -- but it went straight up, into the crossbar, and into the net. Argentina were through.
Ultimately, the Dutch ouster looks perfectly logical in hindsight. The Netherlands had scored exactly one goal from open play since June 23, and that was a miracle salvation strike off Sneijder's foot with just minutes left against Mexico in the quarterfinals. After that, the Dutch played four hours of football without scoring a goal from the field, and you're not playing for the World Cup final after that sort of ineptitude.
After being treated to two very different semifinals, we're deprived of the opportunity to see Argentina play Brazil for third place. In exchange we get the chance to possibly see Argentina win the World Cup on Brazilian soil, though, which is almost as entertaining a thought. It's unlikely, though, because after yesterday does anyone really even give the Albiceleste a chance Sunday?
We'll return Saturday morning to fire up an open thread for the third-place contest between the hosts and the Dutch.