In one fell swoop, the World Cup brought balance back to the globe and set up a heavyweight bout for the rare prize Wednesday.
A day removed from a riot-inducing, lopsided massacre that saw Germany move past Brazil 7-1, Lionel Messi and his Argentina side are through to the final thanks to a 0-0 (4-2) triumph:
Other than the Messi-achieving-his-destiny storyline and setting up two perfectly matched sides for the final, the only thing Day 28 of the spectacle in Brazil didn't do was further the Golden Boot race one day removed from the Germans pretending they can share the prize.
Let's take a look at where the race stands at the moment, with a deeper dive into Argentina's thrilling triumph.
|Team 1||Result||Team 2|
|Robin van Persie||Netherlands||3|
|Clint Dempsey||United States||2|
|Wilfried Bony||Ivory Coast||2|
|Bryan Ruiz||Costa Rica||2|
|Angel Di Maria||Argentina||1|
|Kevin De Bruyne||Belgium||1|
|Julian Green||United States||1|
|Avdija Vrsajevic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Lee Keun-Ho||South Korea||1|
|Joel Campbell||Costa Rica||1|
|Oscar Duarte||Costa Rica||1|
|Marcos Urena||Costa Rica||1|
|Stefan de Vrij||Netherlands||1|
|Vedad Ibisevic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|John Anthony Brooks||United States||1|
|Edin Dzeko||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Miralem Pjanic||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|
|Son Heung Min||South Korea||1|
|Koo Jacheol||South Korea||1|
|Jermaine Jones||United States||1|
|Giovani dos Santos||Mexico||1|
It's always fun when two sides known for their offensive prowess go at it and score...no goals.
Right from the early goings of the match, it was apparent that neither side had a major advantage with the hostile Brazilian crowd, of course, totally against Messi and Co. Still, that crowd got a heck of a scare early on when he squeaked a shot through the crowd, only to be thwarted by Dutch netminder Jasper Cillessen, as illustrated by Bleacher Report UK:
For much of the first 20 minutes on the pitch, it was Argentina in control in terms of offensive chances, as FOX Soccer Trax notes:
35: Lavezzi now over to Higuain…but the flag catches them out again. 0-0— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) July 9, 2014
To counter, the Dutch came out with a 6-3-1 in some sets, which proved effective when Giorginio Wijnaldum retreated to the centre of the unit.
The chippy contest quietly bled into the second half, which yet again saw the South American side in the attacking third with glory in mind, but as footballitalia details, when it was not a flag, it was a snappy Dutch defense getting in the way:
Close! Chipped cross for Higuain, but Janmaat crucial interception #NEDvsARG— footballitalia (@footballitalia) July 9, 2014
Perhaps the most critical defender? Dirk Kuyt, of course. Check out his heat maps provided by Squawka Football:
Little good he did on the offensive end, though—they sent just two shots in the first 65 minutes of play.
At about the 75-minute mark, Higuain was robbed by—yes—yet another offside flag, which represented the closest either side got the rest of the way. Not exactly a difficult feat, considering both sides had combined for just two shots on goal in regulation.
In extra time, the tide inexplicably switched.
It was all Netherlands on the attack with Messi simply looking out of gas:
ARG have lost the script a bit over last 20 or so mins - what attacking there is has come from NED - Aguero not yet involved enough— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) July 9, 2014
The same cannot be said for Ron Vlaar, clearly the motivating force for a side that looked destined to ensure the match would not go to penalty kicks:
But it's not as if the Dutch had no chances, and Rodrigo Palacio missed a gimme in the waning minutes that will haunt him. A moment forever captured by World Soccer Talk:
Well, if his side lost, that is. The contest would indeed go to penalty kicks, a showdown that immediately swung in the South American side's favor as Sergio Romero turned back a Vlaar attempt before Messi moments later knocked through a goal to give them a lead they would not rescind.
Who wins the final?
Offensive juggernaut Arjen Robben would, of course, respond in kind, but Romero was not done playing the hero just yet, as he then denied Wesley Sneijder to essentially end the contest.
The result sets up a fateful clash with Germany, the side that dropped a bombshell on the home side the day prior.
That dance takes place Sunday where Messi, before his prime expires, will look to overcome the deepest roster present in the proceedings that have yet to lose and secure Argentina's first triumph since 1986. For the Germans, it will be a quest to end a 24-year drought.