One midfielder was the backbone of Argentina's march into the 2014 World Cup final.
BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
|MAN OF THE MATCH
Netherlands 0-0 Argentina (2-4 Pens)
|Tackles Won %||100|
The semi-final encounter between Netherlands and Argentina was a closely-contested affair, perhaps too closely, and no goals were scored in regulation time and the ensuing extra time. The South Americans fortunately dominated the penalty decider, and are now through to the final, to face Germany who had effortlessly butchered hosts Brazil yesterday.
They have their defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano to thank for holding the fort for 120 minutes. Despite the bluntness of the Argentinian attackers, it was not for the lack of good deliveries from the midfield. The 30-year old made sure his passes from deep within their own half got to to his forwards, and assisted his defenders when under attack by the Dutch. So effective was he that the Netherlands simply could not mount an effective challenge in the first half.
And at the very end of regulation time, when Arjen Robben worked his magic to wriggle past the defenders for a possibly match-winning chance, Mascherano dove at the last minute to block Robben's chance with the very end of his stud tips, to save them from a heart-breaking end to their match and World Cup campaign.