|GERMANY VS ARGENTINA |
Thursday, July 10 2014
IT IS going to be a case of the best of Europe versus the best of South America to see who will be the best football nation in the world. On Sunday, South America’s Argentina will battle Europe’s juggernaut - Germany - in the FIFA 2014 World Cup final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Yesterday, Argentina prevailed 4-2 over the Netherlands, courtesy of kicks from the penalty spot, in their semi-final meeting at the Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, after the scoreline was deadlocked at the end of 90 minutes of regulation time and 30 minutes of extra time.
Captain Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez successfully converted their spot-kicks for Argentina while Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt responded for Netherlands. Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder saw their efforts saved by Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Yesterday’s game was a stark contrast to Tuesday’s semi-final at the Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, where Germany embarrassed hosts Brazil 7-1. Pre-tournament favourites Brazil will square off on Saturday with Netherlands, the 2010 World Cup runners up in the play-off for third place.
While clinical and ruthless Germany romped home against the hapless and clueless Brazilians on Tuesday, yesterday’s affair was a cagey encounter with both Netherlands and Argentina unwilling to play expressive, attacking football for fear of conceding on the counterattack.
The eventual penalty shootout proved to be a burden that Netherlands first choice goalie Jasper Cillessen was unable to deal with as he has never saved a penalty in his entire professional career.
He has faced eight in the Dutch Eredivisie (Dutch League) with his club Ajax Amsterdam, three in the UEFA Champions League and now six in this World Cup.
Commenting on the game last evening, ex-Soca Warriors defender Brent Sancho said, “the Argentina goalkeeper with his two great penalty saves, helped his team march into the finals and a chance at lifting the World Cup on Sunday.”
About the Netherlands outfit, Sancho noted, “I think (captain Robin) Van Persie was a bit of a disappointment. In the last game as well, against the Costa Ricans, he didn’t play too well. I think he muffed one or two chances in this semis.
“I think they missed him (yesterday). Robben was shackled. They needed Van Persie and he just didn’t show up.” Sancho’s former Soca Warriors teammate Stern John, with regard to Netherlands’ coach Louis Van Gaal, pointed out, “as a manager, after you set your stall out, you just have to hold your hand up and say you were beaten. You can’t dwell on it because I think the Dutch team played really well (but) to go out like this was a bit disappointing.”
As it did on Tuesday in the first semi-final clash, and has been doing over the month-long course of the tournament, football mad Trinis put life on pause for 120 minutes yesterday to cheer on either Argentina or the Dutch. Even the politicians became infected with World Cup fever.
Yesterday’s tea break of the Senate was extended by one hour to accommodate the viewing of the semi-final match.
When Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith suggested that the Upper House take a break at 4 pm, some voices from the Independent and Opposition benches suggested they resume sittings at 5.30 pm, to allow for the watching of the game on television.
Hamel-Smith said that if Senators agreed, they would resume at 5.30 pm. On one of the rare occasions in the Senate, there was not one dissenting voice. Usually the tea break lasts for half an hour.
Over at Pancho’s Sports Bar on Edward Street in Port-of-Spain, fans of Los Albiceleste as the Argentine football side is known, jumped and screamed for joy as the fourth and winning penalty goal was scored in the shootout.
Dutch fans looked sour as they drank their beers inside Panchos which was a beehive of football- watching activity.
Scores of armchair football experts exchanged views and ideas during yesterday’s match all in an air of typical Trini camraderie and friendly football rivalry.
During the game, Netherlands fan Denis Cox said he is sticking with his team to the end but also indicated that Argentine skipper Messi was a good player.
“This game is a very interesting one but I expected my team to perform better. The ground was wet so perhaps this affected the players. At least it was a more evenly matched game than the Germany slaughter of Brazil on Tuesday,” Cox said.
After the game, an Argentina fan, who did not want to give his name, said he had no doubt the Dutch would be going home empty handed. “I believe in my team and they have done well. Soon they will have the World Cup.”
Marla Mohammed who declared she is a Germany fan said she supported Netherlands in yesterday’s game. “I am a Germany fan and I want Netherlands to win as they will be easier to handle on Sunday. If Argentina wins, say what. Whoever we play on Sunday, go get mashed up,” Mohammed said confidently. Now it’s on to Sunday’s final.
(Full game report on Page 54A)