Argentina reaches World Cup final after penalties

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Argentina reaches World Cup final after penalties
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Argentina's Lucas Biglia, right, calls for medical treatment after colliding with Netherlands' Daryl Janmaat during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A Netherlands supporter looks on ahead of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
An Argentina fan awaits the kick off of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
An Argentinian supporter poses ahead of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentina's fans hold a poster of Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi as they await the kick off of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
An Argentinian supporter looks on ahead of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentina's fans await the kick off of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: Netherlands fans enjoy the atmosphere prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Argentina's fans cheer as they await the kick off of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: The shirt worn by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of the Netherlands hang in the dressing room prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: The shirt worn by Robin van Persie of the Netherlands and the match pennent hang in the dressing room prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: The shirt worn by Tim Krul of the Netherlands hang in the dressing room prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
A football fan wearing a hat bearing images of Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi (R) and Netherlands' forward Arjen Robben as he awaits the kick off of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: A Netherlands fan enjoys the atmosphere prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Argentina's fans cheer prior to the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
A football fan holds a Zimbabwe falg as he cheers prior to the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: A Netherlands fan enjoys the atmosphere prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Argentina's fans, one bearing a mask of Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi, cheer prior to the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Argentinian supporter poses ahead of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Fans of Argentina pose before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / DAMIEN MEYER (Photo credit should read DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters gather in the stands ahead of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentinian fans cheer before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Dutch fans cheer before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Netherlands' goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen warms up before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Netherlands' forward Robin van Persie warms up before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Dutch fans cheer before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi stretches as he warms up ahead of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: Dirk Kuyt of Netherlands vies with Oribe Peralta of Mexico during the Round of 16 match of the 2014 World Cup between Netherlands and Mexico at the Estadio Castelao on June 29, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: Dirk Kuyt of Netherlands heads the ball (R) during the Round of 16 match of the 2014 World Cup between Netherlands and Mexico at the Estadio Castelao on June 29, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: A dejected Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez of Mexico is comforted by Arjen Robben of Netherlands during the Round of 16 match of the 2014 World Cup between Netherlands and Mexico at the Estadio Castelao on June 29, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: Georginio Wijnaldum of Netherlands vies with Miguel Layun of Mexico during the Round of 16 match of the 2014 World Cup between Netherlands and Mexico at the Estadio Castelao on June 29, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 08: (L-R) Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero stretch during a training session at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 8, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi takes part in a training session at Arena de Sao Paulo Stadium, on July 08, on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final against Netherlands. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentina's coach Alejandro Sabella takes part in a training session at the Arena de Sao Paulo Stadium, on July 08, on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final against Netherlands. AFP PHOTO / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 08: Lionel Messi warms up during a training session at Arena Corinthians on July 08, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Argentina will face The Netherlands as part of a 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match on July 09. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Argentina's forward Ezequiel Lavezzi warms up before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: Argentina Fans enjoy the atmosphere prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: An Argentina fan wears a mask of Lionel Messi prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: Fan of The Netherlands poses prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Argentina's supporters gather ahead of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / PEDRO UGARTE (Photo credit should read PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: Argentina fan tries to break into the stadium with no ticket and is stopped by security guards prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 09: Fans of The Netherlands and Argentina enjoy the atmosphere prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between the Netherlands and Argentina at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi warms up prior to the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
An Argentinian supporter poses ahead of the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentinian fans cheer before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
An Argentinian fan waits before the semi-final football match between Netherlands and Argentina of the FIFA World Cup at The Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on July 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / DAMIEN MEYER (Photo credit should read DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
Netherlands' Dirk Kuyt, right, goes for a header with Argentina's Javier Mascherano, left, and Ezequiel Garay during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Netherlands' Nigel de Jong, left, and Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain go for a header during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Netherlands' goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, right, punches the ball away from Argentina's Sergio Aguero (20) during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Fabrizio Bensch, Pool)
Netherlands' Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, left, is held by Argentina's Ezequiel Garay during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Argentina's Pablo Zabaleta bleeds after colliding with a Dutch player during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Netherlands' Arjen Robben, left, and Argentina's Martin Demichelis go for a header during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Argentina's Javier Mascherano, left, and Netherlands' Arjen Robben challenge for the ball during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Netherlands' Ron Vlaar, left, and Argentina's Lionel Messi challenge for the ball during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Argentina's Ezequiel Garay, left, and Netherlands' Robin van Persie go for a header during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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BY MIKE CORDER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAO PAULO (AP) -- The World Cup's second semifinal was supposed to put the silky skills of Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben in the spotlight. Instead, a goalkeeper and two rock-solid defenses stole the show.

Argentina goalie Sergio Romero saved two penalties Wednesday to send Argentina into the World Cup final with a 4-2 shootout win over the Netherlands after tough defending and a lack of creative spark from either team consigned the match to a 0-0 stalemate.

In a twist of fate, Romero credited Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal with helping launch his career when he arrived as an inexperienced youngster at AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league.

"I will be forever grateful to the coach for helping me out in a country that is so different from ours," Romero said.

A day after Germany lit up the World Cup with its clinical 7-1 destruction of host Brazil, the Dutch and Argentines could not manage a goal between them in 120 minutes before the shootout.

Messi, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, will have to do play far better in Sunday's final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium if he is to engineer a win over the powerful German team. The Barcelona star was muted throughout the match and extra time, rarely managing to shake off his markers.

At the Itaquerao Stadium, he was overshadowed by his goalkeeper and the man he replaced as Argentina captain, Javier Mascherano, who bossed the midfield for his team the way surprise starter Nigel de Jong did for the Dutch.

When Robben looked like deciding the match in stoppage time, Mascherano's perfectly timed sliding tackle blocked his shot at the near post.

"I would say that he is an outstanding player," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said. "He is an emblem within our national squad, on the field as well as off it."

Romero - thought to be a weak link for Argentina and not even a starter for his Monaco club most of last season - had almost nothing to do during the match, but blocked penalties by Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder in the shootout. For Argentina, Messi, Ezequiel Garay, Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez all converted their spot kicks.

"It's luck, that's the truth. You can dive (the right way) and not make it, like happened to their goalkeeper," Romero said. "I had confidence, thank God things turned out well."

A Germany-Argentina final means an extra bitter end to the tournament for Brazilians, who will have to watch their fiercest rivals play for the world title in their most hallowed stadium against a team that humiliated their nation in the semifinals.

"We have a final to play, but with one day less rest and against Germany," Sabella said. "We'll do everything possible to make it all the way to the top."

It was the second straight penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw for the Dutch. Against Costa Rica in the quarterfinals, Van Gaal brought on substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul in the last seconds of extra time to replace Jasper Cillessen and Krul saved two spot kicks.

This time, Van Gaal had used up all three substitutions by the end of extra time and Cillessen had to face the shootout.

The young Ajax goalkeeper collapsed onto his knees and sank onto his back when Rodriguez's powerful strike ended the shootout. Krul walked across the pitch to console him.

Van Gaal also said he had a hand in Romero's heroics from their time together at AZ Alkmaar.

"Penalties are always a matter of luck," he said. "And I taught Romero how to stop penalties so that hurts."

Many of Argentina's players stripped off their shirts in the rain at the Itaquerao Stadium and danced in front of their fans.

Argentina reached its fifth final, and its first in 24 years. It won the title in 1978 - beating the Dutch - and in 1986. It lost the championship matches in 1930 and 1990. It played West Germany in both the '86 and '90 finals.

The Netherlands, which has never won the World Cup, was seeking to reach its fourth final.

After scoring 10 goals in three group matches, the Dutch scoring dried up in the knockout rounds. The team managed two late strikes against Mexico but failed to find the net before eliminating Costa Rica in the quarterfinal shootout.

"The issue in a championship like this one is that you score one more goal than your opponent, which we didn't do," Van Gaal said, "We didn't create very much."

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Lineups:

Netherlands: Jasper Cillessen; Dirk Kuyt, Ron Vlaar, Stefan de Vrij, Bruno Martins Indi (Daryl Janmaat, 46), Daley Blind; Nigel de Jong (Jordy Clasie, 62), Georginio Wijnaldum, Wesley Sneijder; Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie (Klaas Jan Huntelaar).

Argentina: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo; Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez (Rodrigo Palacio, 81); Ezequiel Lavezzi (Maxi Rodriguez, 101), Gonzalo Higuain (Sergio Aguero, 82), Lionel Messi.
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