Holland 0-0 Argentina (2-4 On Penalties): World Cup Talking Points

Argentina beat Holland 4-2 on penalties to set up a World Cup final with Germany at the Maracanã on Sunday.

Here are four talking points from the second semi-final in São Paulo...


Nigel de Jong lasted 51 minutes longer than Diego Costa did in the Champions League final but the decision to start him suddenly backfired. When De Jong was withdrawn on the hour mark, a penalty shootout seemed likely since the game was so cagy and reticent, and Van Gaal was faced with the quandary of whether to persevere with the remaining outfield players and later introduce Tim Krul or sacrifice the struggling Robin van Persie. He had one option remaining after Bruno Martins Indi departed at the interval for Daryl Janmaat, although it is unclear whether that was enforced or a tactical alteration, and early in extra-time Van Persie made way for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Penalty specialist Krul would have to watch on in horror.


No one should have doubted Van Gaal's decision to bring on Krul after he denied two Costa Ricans in the quarter-final shootout, yet maybe even Holland's coach went soft after the pang of humiliation Jasper Cillessen suffered. It is incomparable to what he would have felt after Argentina's victory, however.

Cillessen had not saved a penalty from the 16 he faced in his career and it showed. His body language was nervous, he looked tiny between the sticks and hardly intimidated the Argentinian takers.

Cillessen never looked remotely like saving any of the four penalties he faced

Seldom is a goalkeeper the scapegoat after a shootout defeat, but Cillessen was certainly culpable. He should have saved Maxi Rodríguez's winning kick and maybe even Sergio Agüero's effort before that, but he never looked remotely like thwarting any of the four who beat him.


Van Gaal's decision to select Ron Vlaar, a defender who has not scored since May 2013, as the first penalty of a World Cup semi-final, was unfathomable. Two players were reportedly asked to go first but didn't want to, but a megalomaniac like Van Gaal should have insisted.

Huntelaar was brought on not only to freshen up Holland's attack but to, surely, take a penalty. He converted a nerveless stoppage-time winner against Mexico in the last 16 and was one of the surer bets to beat Sergio Romero, yet he was probably pencilled in as the fifth taker. Van Persie took Holland's first penalty against Costa Rica, so it was daft that an unashamed artisan, who nobody on the planet expected to score, stepped up first to gift Romero an easy save.


Barcelona are yet to sign a centre-back but Javier Mascherano should be affronted if he is ever played there again. Their new coach, Luís Enrique, has reportedly assured the Argentine he will be back in midfield again and his performance against the Dutch was a reminder there are few defensive midfielders better than him. He overcame a worrying and thudding blow to the head early on, even though he looked so dazed he didn't know what the day was, but his positioning was perfect to deny Arjen Robben a late 90th minute winner.