|Argentina reaches World Cup final after penalties|
|Wednesday, July 09, 2014 8:00 PM|
SAO PAULO — Goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved two penalties Wednesday to send Argentina into the World Cup final with a 4-2 shootout win over the Netherlands after the match finished in a 0-0 stalemate.
A day after Germany lit up the World Cup with its clinical 7-1 destruction of host Brazil, the Netherlands and Argentina could not manage a goal between them in 120 minutes before the shootout.
Romero — thought to be a weak link in this Argentine team and not even a starter for his Monaco club most of last season — blocked penalties by Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder. For Argentina, Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez all converted their spot kicks.
Argentina will play Germany in Sunday’s final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. That means Brazilians will have to watch their fiercest rivals play for the world title in their most hallowed stadium, bringing the country’s World Cup to an extra-bitter end.
It was the second straight penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw for the Dutch. Against Costa Rica in the quarterfinals, coach Louis van Gaal brought on substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul in the last seconds of extra time to replace Jasper Cillessen and Krul saved two efforts.
This time, Van Gaal had used up all three substitutions by the end of extra time and Cillessen had to face the shootout.
The young Ajax goalkeeper got a hand to Rodriguez’s decisive powerful shot but could only deflect it into the roof of the net, then collapsed onto his back in the goal. Krul walked across the pitch to console him and Van Gaal later gave him a pat on the back of the head.
Many of Argentina’s players stripped off their shirts in the rain at the Itaquerao Stadium and danced in front of their fans.
Argentina, a 2-time World Cup winner, reached its fifth final, its first in 24 years. It won the title in 1978 and 1986 and lost the championship matches in 1930 and 1990. It played West Germany in both the ‘86 and ‘90 finals.
The Netherlands, which has never won the World Cup, was seeking to reach its fourth final.
Mascherano, Zabaleta play on after blows to head: Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta both stayed in the game for Argentina after being knocked down by blows to their heads during Wednesday’s World Cup semifinal.
Mascherano looked discombobulated after he clashed heads with Georginio Winjaldum in the first half against the Netherlands.
After receiving medical attention, he got back in the game and played a key defensive role to keep the Netherlands from scoring.
Zabaleta went down bleeding from his mouth after smashing his face into Netherlands wingback Dirk Kuyt’s shoulder in extra time.
He also played on after team doctors put a piece of tissue in his mouth.
Earlier in the tournament, the world players’ union accused FIFA of failing to protect Uruguay midfielder Alvaro Pereira after he played on following a hard blow to the head.
Brazil trying to shift focus to 3rd-place match
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his players are trying to put the devastating semifinal loss to Germany behind them as quickly as possible, turning their focus to the farewell match at their home World Cup.
Scolari on Wednesday said they have to find a way to move on and the team already has a new objective: win the third-place game Saturday to give fans some reason to celebrate.
“Life goes on; we need to look forward to our next goal and our next goal is to win the match for third place,” Scolari said. “We have to play it. It has become our main goal.”
The veteran coach said he knows the 7-1 result against Germany is going to hurt forever but stressed that a “bad loss” can’t erase what he considered was an otherwise good campaign by the national team.
Scolari said it was his job to ensure the players get past “this horrible feeling” that overwhelmed them after the loss to Germany.
“The players’ lives won’t end because of this loss. It happened and from now on they will continue being the players that they are,” Scolari said. “They will continue playing for Brazil and we will continue to be one of the best teams in the world. Probably many of these players will play for Brazil in 2018.”
Only a few fans were waiting for the national team at its training camp outside Rio de Janeiro early Tuesday, including one who carried a banner reading “Shame.” Some fans booed as the bus carrying the squad left Rio’s airport.
Scolari said it’s important to put into perspective Tuesday’s loss, the team’s worst in its 100-year history, matching the margin of a 6-0 defeat to Uruguay in 1920.
“Because of the score and the high number of goals, we know the loss will go down in history,” Scolari continued. “But it also has to go down in history that it’s the first time since 2002 that we made it to the semifinals. Our work wasn’t bad, it was just a bad loss.”
Scolari blamed a “6-minute disaster” in which Germany scored four goals in the first half.
The 2002 World Cup-winning coach returned to the command of the Brazilian national squad late in 2012. In 28 matches, he won 19, drew six and lost three, including Tuesday’s match.
Scolari is not expected to remain as Brazil coach but he told reporters that any decision about his future won’t be made until after the tournament.
“Our commitment is valid until the end of the World Cup,” he added. “After the tournament, we will probably talk to the directors of the (Brazilian football confederation), give them a report of what was done and how it was done, and then a decision will be made.”
“The president of the CBF will decide what is going to happen.”
Germany takes ‘tiki-taka’ to another level
PORTO SEGURO, Brazil — Germany has taken the “tiki-taka” passing game so intrinsically used by Spain to another level at the World Cup in Brazil, by adding ruthless efficiency to the possession philosophy.
Germany is one win from capturing its fourth World Cup title following the astonishing 7-1 demolition of host Brazil in the semifinals.
Spain beat Germany at two major tournaments and coach Joachim Loew was so impressed by the Spanish game that he has taken over many aspects and, of course, added some of his own flourishes.
Germany likes possession, just as Spain did, but Loew’s team avoids endless wide passing and prefers to push forward at every occasion.
When Germany wins the ball in its half, Loew wants his players to pass it quickly forward, hoping to outnumber the opposing defense.
The result is that Germany creates many chances and scores plenty of goals.
Spain’s minimalists scored eight goals in winning the 2010 World Cup — Germany already has 17 here, with one match remaining to play.
Spain beat Germany in the final of the 2008 European Championship and again in the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup.
But while Spain’s game was based on endless possession and passing until an occasional chance was created, Loew’s lineup is happy to attack and take risks.
It worked perfectly against Brazil, as the historic result illustrates.
It may help that six of Germany’s field players come from Bayern Munich, which has been coached by Pep Guardiola for one season. Guardiola was the mastermind of “tiki-taka” and won 14 titles in four seasons in charge of Barcelona, including two Champions League crowns. Barcelona inspired Spain’s game that brought two European championships and a World Cup title.
Loew also adopted the notion of a “false nine” system without a true striker, another idea borrowed from Spain. But when Germany had some trouble in earlier matches in the tournament in Brazil, Loew did not hesitate to revert to starting Miroslav Klose, the only true striker on his team.
Klose has scored two goals in Brazil and has become the top scorer in World Cup history when he netted against Brazil for his 16th goal in four tournaments.
Germany’s talented midfielders rotate positions constantly, they are always on the move and any is capable of scoring. Thomas Mueller has been the most prolific with five goals so far, either playing as a winger with Klose in the lineup or as forward when Klose is on the bench.
Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos shone against Brazil, with the latter scoring twice and playing a role in the first four German goals, while Khedira netted once in his best match of the tournament. But they are also not shy to defend.
Germany has shown it can win even when it doesn’t have more possession — France had as much as Germany and lost 1-0 in the quarterfinals. Brazil had 51 percent, with the known outcome.
Still, Germany tops the tournament in completed passes at 3,421, nearly three times the average. Philipp Lahm with 458 passes and Kroos with 443 lead the tournament. Spain completed 4,773 passes in winning the 2010 title.