Argentina beats Netherlands on penalties, set World Cup Final vs. Germany

Argentina and the Netherlands followed up Brazil and Germany’s eight goal semifinal with 120 minutes of scoreless soccer — and an unforgettable round of penalties.

When the dust settled, it was Sergio Romero playing hero, stopping defender Ron Vlaar in the opening stanza and midfield general Wesley Sneijder en route to a 4-2 shootout victory.

With the win, Argentina book their place in the World Cup Final against heavy-favorites Germany at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro this Sunday. It is their first Final in 24 years and their fifth appearance overall. The Dutch, meanwhile, face off against host nation Brazil in the third place game on Saturday.

Both Argentina and the Netherlands took a calculated posture throughout most of the encounter, producing few quality scoring opportunities on the afternoon. Argentina’s best challenge on net came in the first half off the boot of forward Lionel Messi, who sent a thundering dead ball strike straight into the arms of Dutch keeper, Jesper Cillissen.

The second half produced better play from the Netherlands, with Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie, and Sneijder leading the attack. Manager Louis van Gaal also made a series of substitutes which helped to push the Oranje forward.

Nevertheless, neither team found a clear cut opportunity on net.

The Netherlands rode their momentum into the second half, but a stout Argentine defense quelled a series of attacks, mostly led by the explosive Robben.

The penalty shootout brought about an unlikely hero in Sergio Romero. A second-string keeper with French side, Monaco, Romero performed at a first class level, besting both Vlaar and Sneijder while allowing Argentine goalscorers Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Aguero, and ultimately, Maxi Rodriguez to net four consecutive goals on their way to victory.

Sunday’s encounter against Germany will be the third time both sides have faced in a World Cup final. West Germany faced the Albiceleste in consecutive World Cup tournaments (1986 and 1990). Argentina took the title in 1986 behind the heroics of Diego Armando Maradona, while Jurgen Klinsmann’s Germany took the 1990 Championship.

Kickoff begins at 3:00 P.M. ET this Sunday. The third place match will be played on Saturday at 4:00 P.M. ET.

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