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Breakfast at Bebeto’s: All you need to know about last night’s World Cup action

Leo Messi has a date with destiny at The Maracanã this Sunday.

JUST WHEN YOU thought Brazil’s World Cup nightmare was easing a little, Argentina squeaked past the Netherlands and into the Sunday’s final at the Maracana.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Semi Final - Netherlands v Argentina - Arena de Sao Paulo Source: EMPICS Sport

Both sides, perhaps wary of Brazil’s headless game-plan on Tuesday night, set up defensively from the start and the dangermen of Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben were well marshalled. Argentina fashioned the majority of clear-cut openings, with Gonzalo Higuain and Martin Demichelis forcing Jasper Cillessen into action.

The best chance of the 90 minute-period, however, arrived in the final minutes as Robben danced into the box before a sliding Javier Mascherano made a vital interception.

Brazil Soccer WCup Netherlands Argentina A man dressed as Pope Francis cheers with others Argentina national soccer fans as they ride the subway to the Itaquerao Stadium. Source: AP/Press Association Images

From that point, penalties seemed inevitable, but after using up his third substitution by swapping Robin van Persie for Klass Jan Huntelaar, there was to be no cavalry in the shape of Tim Krul for the Oranje and penalty misses from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder eased some of the pressure on the Albiceleste takers.

Winner

There’s an argument to say he shouldn’t have been on the field, but only the doctors tending Javier Mascherano were truly in a position to know if he suffered concussion. While Leo Messi’s presence undoubtedly spooked the Dutch, it was his Barcelona team-mate who made the decisive intervention in this game.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Semi Final - Netherlands v Argentina - Arena de Sao Paulo Source: EMPICS Sport

Arjen Robben’s injury-time chance looked a sure bet to dramatically end this semi-final, but Mascherano was fit and alert enough to thwart the Bayern Munich star.

Loser

We’ve twice made Louis van Gaal a winner in these pages, so tonight it’s only fair that that big ol’ ego take a hit.

From the outside, LVG has had a plan for each contest put before the Oranje in this tournament. However, last night his fluid tactics appeared ato freeze over and Argentina were allowed to boss a game while Messi kept at least one defender preoccupied at a time.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Semi Final - Netherlands v Argentina - Arena de Sao Paulo Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

After wowing the world with his late goalkeeper switch in the quarter-final, he was in no position to perform the trick a second time. That was only partly a problem of his own making. Nigel de Jong and Bruno Martins-Indi were forced off in regular time, but his persistence with his ineffective (and, pre-match, sick) captain, Robin van Persie, made the third change essential after 90 minutes.

Joga Bonito

Despite playing for only 44 seconds in the World Cup, Tim Krul is the Dutch goalkeeper most fans have raved about. Ajax stopper Jasper Cillessen attempted to change that with a neat drag-back that flummoxed Argentina’s Ezequiel Lavezzi.

And he did it to Sergio Aguero in extra-time too.
https://vine.co/v/MPUqBKziF9g

What we’ve go to look forward to today

World Cup fans are in footballing limbo until the third and fourth place play-off on Saturday evening. Expect a phony war from both sides as they speak of pride and payback but dream of the beach. The real show will be in Rio as the finallists fall over each other to dole out praise while, behind closed doors, preparing for a knife-fight.

As it happened: Netherlands v Argentina, World Cup semi-final

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TheScore Team

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