SAO PAULO – Goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved two penalties yesterday to send Argentina into the World Cup final with a 4-2 shoot-out win over the Netherlands after the game finished in a 0-0 stalemate.
A day after Germany lit up the World Cup with their clinical 7-1 destruction of host Brazil, the Netherlands and Argentina could not manage a goal between them in 120 minutes before the shoot-out.
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.
“It’s luck, that’s the truth. You can dive (the right way) and not make it, like happened to their goalkeeper,” Romero said. “I had confidence, thank God things turned out well.”
In a match-up of two of football’s powerhouse nations, two-time champions Argentina will play three-time winners 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 shoot-out following a 0-0 draw for the Dutch. Against Costa Rica in the quarter-finals, 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 shoot-out.
The young Ajax goalkeeper got a hand to Rodriguez’s decisive powerful shot, but could only deflect it into the roof of the net, and 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.
Van Gaal said he even had a hand in Romero’s heroics, having trained him at AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league.
“Penalties are always a matter of luck,” he said. “And I taught Romero how to stop penalties so that hurts.”
Many of Argentina’s players stripped off their shirts in the rain at the Itaquerao Stadium and danced in front of their fans.
Argentina reached their fifth final, and their first in 24 years. They won the title in 1978 – beating the Dutch – and in 1986. They lost the championship matches in 1930 and 1990. They played West Germany in both the 1986 and 1990 finals. (AP)