Netherlands Crash Like Fallen Clockwork


Argentina celebrates a trip to the World Cup finals while Jasper Cillesson is left figuring out what just transpired.

There are many storylines that have emerged from this match. Lionel Messi is going to the World Cup final for the first time after defeating the Dutch 4-2 in a penalty shootout, Ron Vlaar choked on his penalty attempt despite his outstanding performance, Sergio Romero blocked two shots, and Javier Mascherano got a concussion and kept playing despite warnings. It’s easy to gloss this match with such headlines and highlight the dramatics, but lets be honest; this match was far from eventful.

Over the course of 120 minutes, the Dutch and Argentines took a combined total of 15 shots, five of which were at goal. That total is only one more than the amount Germany took yesterday, but at least the Germans saw 10 on target, 7 of which found the back of the net. Those who expected Lionel Messi to put on a show were left disappointed as Nigel de Jong and Jordy Clasie stuck on the Argentine forward like glue throughout the entire match. Instead, fans were entitled to watching Ezequiel Lavezzi overplaying the ball from the wing and delivering an easily defended cross.

Lionel Messi celebrates his team’s victory

For 90 minutes and beyond, the game utterly bored television viewers out of their minds and reminded Americans why they hated soccer in the first place. The match was described as a “tactical chess match”, but in reality it was two and a half hours of Ron Vlaar clearing out shot attempts and Javier Mascherano breaking up counterattacks. The match only got interesting when it went to penalty shootout…actually that was the only exciting thing about the match.

After being heralded as a genius in the Costa Rica match by replacing Jasper Cillesson with Tim Krul, Van Gaal made the inept mistake of sending out his central defender to take the first kick. Sergio Romero easily deflected Vlaar’s attempt, giving Argentina the early advantage. Down 2-1 in the shootout, Netherlands could not afford to miss any more attempts. Unfortunately, Wesley Sneijder, the hero of Netherland’s 2010 World Cup run, saw his attempt at the left post saved brilliantly by Romero. After Dirk Kuyt converted his attempt to keep Netherlands’ hope alive, Maxi Rodriguez slotted in his attempt to send Argentina to the World Cup final.

Argentina will met Germany this Sunday for the final match, while Netherlands will have to settle with playing against Brazil for third place.

July 9, 2014; Sao Paulo, BRAZIL; Netherlands player Nigel de Jong (left) and Argentina player Javier Mascherano slide for the ball during the semifinal match in the 2014 World Cup at Arena Corinthians. Mandatory Credit: Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

Man of the Match

In case of a 0-0 tie, it’s a safe bet to hand the award to the defender. In Argentina’s case Javier Mascherano is worthy of the accolade for being an outstanding search-and-destroy artist throughout the match. Netherlands saw their counterattacks thwarted by Mascherano’s calming presence, seeing their attempts deflected, intercepted, and tackled. The Argentina backline has never looked so solid despite the lack of big names. What’s even more amazing is how he performed solidly despite suffering a concussion early in the first half. His performance will be stuff of legend in Argentina football folklore…except it shouldn’t.

The Point After

Strongly put, regardless of how well Mascherano performed for Argentina today, no one should ever make the foolish decision of playing sports after suffering a concussion. After bumping heads with Wijnaldum in the air, Mascherano collapsed on the pitch and briefly lost his consciousness. He woke up and looked dazed, as if he forgot where he was. Two and a half minutes later, he stepped back on the pitch and resumed playing. As fortunate as it was that Mascherano put on a fine defensive display, imagine if later in the match Mascherano bumped his noggin against another player again. Talk about the tragedy that would have unfolded as Mascherano gets carted out of the field, learns that he cannot play soccer anymore, and lives on with the potentially harmful after effects of the concussion.

It is understandable to risk injuring yourself for the sake of winning a soccer game, but when it comes down to risking your life, it’s not worth it. In the long run, dealing with recurring brain problems just for a simple game is not worth it. It’s just a game.

Tweets of the Match