Argentina through to the final
Following a historic game like Germany's 7-1 victory over Brazil would never be easy, and the Netherlands and Argentina labored their way to a scoreless draw heading into the penalty shootout on Wednesday.
The Dutch only put one shot on target over the 120 minutes, five less than they'd been averaging to date in the tournament. Argentina had a few chances, most notably with Gonzalo Higuain just hitting side netting in the second half, but failed to convert any of their eight shots.
With Louis van Gaal forced into replacing Robin van Persie, the Dutch manager couldn't bring in Tim Krul for the penalty shootout, which began on a negative note for the Dutch with Ron Vlaar (who, it must be said, had a great game in defense) missing badly.
Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen never looked up to the task in the shootout, failing to stop any of the four Argentines who stepped to the spot. One has to wonder how Louis van Gaal's decision to place Tim Krull in Saturday's shootout over Cillessen, while it did pay off, affected the Ajax keeper's confidence.
Maxi Rodriguez scored the final penalty for Argentina, giving them a 4-2 shootout win and their first appearance in a World Cup final since 1990.
Disappointment aside, the Dutch will be in action on Saturday in the third-place game, one that LVG has already stated in post-match coverage "should never be played." The manager's demeanor on Saturday will be very interesting, especially as he becomes United's manager once the Netherlands are eliminated for good.
Brazil's nightmare...one day later
I've never been in a room quite like the restaurant full of Brazilian fans I found myself in on Tuesday. My roommate had the bright idea to visit a local bar/restaurant that hosts a rather large gathering of Brazilian fans for the team's games. Let's just say we picked the wrong day to try it out.
It was one of those games that will never feel completely real, no matter how much time has elapsed. Goal after goal went past Julio Cesar and the confused Brazilian squad-- reaching 5-0 after thirty minutes. On ESPN's broadcast, the list of scorers even needed to scroll to fully show all seven of the goals Germany finished with. Brazil got one back in the 90th minute, earning some sarcastic cheers from the restaurant's crowd, which, I must say, reacted MUCH better than I would have in the same circumstance.
Adding onto the nightmare, the Brazilians will now be forced to watch Argentina contest the final at the Maracanã. With the two options being either their bitter rivals or the German team that delivered the historic beatdown, watching the final won't exactly be a pleasurable situation for the Brazilian spectators.
Mixed showing from the Manchester City contingent over the two games
First, the bad: Fernandinho continued in Brazil's midfield against Germany and was a large part (though not entirely to blame) of the disorganization that plagued the Brazilians in the 7-1 defeat. Mercifully, he came off at halftime, but the damage was already done. Hopefully Manuel Pellegrini will ensure Fernandinho fully regains his confidence upon returning to Manchester--because he's obviously vital to City.
Martin Demichelis performed well in his second start of the competition. His eight interceptions were more than any other player, and only Javier Mascherano had more tackles in the Argentina squad. As Danny pointed out a few days ago, Demichelis has potential to complete a rather impressive turnaround with his performance in the World Cup.
As for the typically steady Pablo Zabaleta, his tweet after the game Wednesday does way more than any words could.
Orgulloso de ser ARGENTINO!!!! pic.twitter.com/wvDVZmr7kR— Pablo Zabaleta (@pablo_zabaleta) July 9, 2014
Sergio Aguero also returned from injury to replace Gonzalo Higuain late in the second half. Though he did not make much of an impact in regulation or extra time of the dull game, he did step up to the spot to nail Argentina's third shot in the penalty shootout. Aguero finishing the game without coming off with another injury must be a slight win for the plagued striker, too.
Third-place game suggestions
Are you ready for a third-place game between a deflated Brazil and a Dutch team that's played two consecutive games to penalties? Me too! Here are a few ideas for FIFA to consider for Saturday's consolation matchup:
1. Let each team's captain make playground-style selections for a pickup game between all the players.
2. LVG and Scolari are both forced to play in the match.
3. Jô plays whatever position he wants. This is non-negotiable. Just because the Summer of Jô hasn't gone as smoothly as the Official Jô Fan Club may have hoped doesn't mean we can't find vindication in the end.
Prediction for the main event
With the Germans finally showing the form many expected from them, it's hard to imagine Jogi Low's squad not coming out on top, however close it may be. The performance put on by the German team, particularly Toni Kroos, was something unseen by this team at the World Cup, outside of playing against a 10-man Portugal side.
Attempting not to read too much into a 7-1, they will line up against the best player in the world in Lionel Messi, a player who can never be ignored. If Angel di Maria makes a late recovery to appear in the final, things could be different, but as it stands now, it's difficult to pick against Germany. I'd love to be wrong in my boring prediction, though.
Prediction: Germany 2-1 Argentina