As busy as the action was in the Germany-Brazil semifinal, the Netherlands-Argentina semifinal was a real snoozer.
I didn't realize it before the game started but di Maria was out with a minor injury; I didn't hear whether he'd be back for the last game (final or third place).
The only thing I really found interesting about the play was that the Dutch were playing a possession game, rather than a counterattacking one. I wonder if that was a sign of respect for the Argentine attack; certainly, it shows that the Dutch are well-coached.
It was a game marked by defense; very closely marked, in fact. So much so that there was very little room for anyone in the attacking third. When Robben or van Persie got the ball, they only had space for a single touch. When Messi got it, he had someone with him at almost all times.
But the Argentinians had far more chances for a long while. It turned out that there was only one shot on net in the entire first half, and that was a Messi free kick (skirted the left side of the wall, and struck hard, but still not a hard save for the keeper).
As far as chances, I didn't count, but those from the land of silver definitely had more of them (though really, there were very few really good ones, and those were mostly shot off-net).
The second half played pretty evenly, maybe slightly still in favor of the Argentines. But again, there wasn't much going on; neither team did much in the attacking third of the pitch.
So regulation expired without anything much having happened.
Extra time came, and saw the play definitely favor the Dutch, who had a few good chances, but they still couldn't convert any of them. The Argentines did manage a couple of chances, at least one of which was very good, but spoiled again.
Neither goalie was really pushed much. By the end of extra time, they'd made six saves between them, and I don't think any of those were especially good saves.
So the ho-hum game went to penalty kicks, which was at least going to force the goalies to work a bit. The Dutch were out of subs by that point (they'd used their third sub to put Huntelaar in for van Persie a short bit into extra time), which I think they regretted. Not only were they missing van Persie's shots, but they couldn't put Krul in at goalie again, either.
But it likely didn't matter; Vlaar came up for the first kick, and put it waist-high on the left. The Argentine goalie dove out to his right and knocked it in the air and back to him.
I was surprised to see Messi come out first for Argentina, and you knew he wouldn't miss (top-center, if you're wondering about placement).
Robben came out next for the Netherlands, and you knew he was good for it too, putting it hard into the right side of the net.
Garay was next for the South Americans, putting it low and left, just below the diving keeper to keep Argentina ahead.
Sneijder came up next, and you were sure he wouldn't mess it up. But he put it in the goalie's reach, and it was knockout well away from the goal to largely guarantee loss for the Europeans.
Aguero, who was a late sub, came up next and clinically kept the pressure on the Orangemen.
Kuyt came up next, with a very long run-up, and put it bottom-right to stay alive.
But then Maxi Rodriguez came up; it took me a few minutes to place his name. He'd had the unbelievable goal in the 2006 World Cup (quite possibly the prettiest of that World Cup) against Mexico to win that game. Well, he calmly finished this one (with some luck; the goalie deflected it up, but into the back of the crossbar) for the win, also.
So Argentina will go up against Germany in the final, with the Dutch falling into a rematch of their knockout game with Brazil in the last World Cup. I don't see the Brazilians being heavily favored, this time. Nor do I see the hosts winning, unless the Dutch fail to take the game seriously (which I highly doubt).
In Sunday night's final between Argentina and Germany... It's funny, thinking about it; all the upsets and surprise eliminations in pool play, and even a casual fan would be likely to get at least three of the final four right. And a Germany Argentina final was probably considered one of the more likely possibilities, even back then.
I'm going to have to go with my ancestry, and pick Germany. Messi will definitely be the best player on the pitch (by a pretty good margin), but the Germans will hound him relentlessly. And the Europeans will attack in waves as well. A 3-1 result would not surprise me in the least (though it would be a bit out of character for this World Cup, which has seen far too many knock-out games go scoreless in regulation); if the one was a pretty Messi score, that would be perfect, in my book.