433716_herol10.58pm Germany will be happy to sit back and watch this unfold. They will not be too concerned with what they have seen this evening that is for certain. Time for someone to make themselves a hero in Sao Paulo.

10.55pm Netherlands were the team forcing the issue in the latter stages, but they just could not find that killer touch inside the box. Is this going all the way to penalties? Or can someone win it in extra-time?

90 min+3 END OF 90 MINS: Netherlands 0-0 Argentina

90 min+2 Truly wonderful defending from Mascherano, who has been super this evening. Netherlands have a corner from the resulting challenge, but Zabaleta is on hand to clear the danger.

90 min+1 CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Netherlands as Robben breaks into the Argentine box before attempting to find the bottom corner, but Mascherano is across to make a stunning challenge.

89 min The match has become stretched in the last few minutes with Robben seeing more of the ball in the final third. However, Argentina continue to defend their own box. It looks as if we are heading for extra-time here.

87 min Robben finds some space down the left following bright work from Clasie, but Demichelis is across to make the challenge. The resulting corner is delivered by Robben, but Rojo clears the danger. It falls to Clasie, but his effort is high and wide of the target. Little over three minutes of normal time remaining here.

85 min Rojo tries his luck for Argentina after finding some space outside the box, but his effort is straight into the arms of the Dutch goalkeeper, who has not had too much to do this evening. Netherlands are down the other end with Robben moments later, but it breaks down with Van Persie and Argentina regain the ball.

83 min Well, both managers have now made two changes. Is Van Gaal keeping Krul in reserve for possible spot-kicks?! Netherlands gain good ground inside the Argentine half with Robben, but his cross is straight into Romero.

81 min SUBS! Argentina make a double-change as Palacio and Aguero enter the field in place of Perez and Higuain. Wow that is brave from Sabella, who clearly does not want extra-time here.

79 min Little over 10 minutes of football remaining and one goal would surely be enough to win this match. It would be the cruellest of blows to lose at this stage of proceedings. Just a reminder that Netherlands have already made two changes, but Argentina are yet to look to their bench this evening.

76 min CHANCE! Stunning chance for Argentina as Higuain meets a low cross from Lavezzi, but his effort smashes into the side netting. Incredible opportunity for the Napoli forward.

76 min Van Persie finds some space inside the Argentine box before meeting a cross from Janmaat, but the Dutch skipper had been ruled offside. Netherlands have arguably had the better of the last 10 minutes or so.

75 min Slightly untidy period of the match in the last couple of moments, with Messi over-hitting a free kick, before Kuyt fires a long pass straight out of play. Little over 15 minutes of normal time remaining.

73 min Half-chance for Argentina as Lavezzi finds some space just outside the Netherlands box, but his effort is straight at Vlaar – who has been outstanding this evening. Netherlands attempt to break down the other end with Sneijder, but Biglia is across to clear. The tempo has been raised in the last few moments.

70 min It’s good work from Kuyt as the Dutch attacker finds some space down the left before delivering a cross towards Van Persie, but Garay does enough to clear the danger. Moments before, Janmaat had gone down holding his face, but it does seem likely that the right wing-back will continue.

68 min Clasie has certainly made a difference in the middle of the park, with the Dutch midfielder popping the ball around in the Argentine half. Netherlands have just started to get a grip on things, but Argentina remain a threat on the counter. Little over 20 minutes of normal time remaining and still the score is goalless.

66 min Biglia does indeed return to the field following a period of treatment. Still no separating the two teams on the field and chances are few and far between. The rain, meanwhile, has started to come down in Sao Paulo.

64 min Still no movement on the Argentine bench. How fit is Aguero? I suspect we will see the Manchester City striker at some point this evening. Biglia, however, still has not moved following that challenge from Janmaat.

62 min SUB! Netherlands make their second change of the match as Clasie enters the field in place of De Jong, who had started to tire in the last few minutes.

62 min It’s poor from Janmaat as the Dutch wing-back loses control in the final third before diving into a challenge with Biglia, who feels the full force of the defender.

62 min Extremely cautious from both sides in the last few minutes with neither too prepared to commit numbers in the final third. It looks more and more likely that this one could go to extra-time. It is so tight.

59 min CHANCE! Clear chance for Argentina as Lavezzi delivers a dangerous cross into the Dutch box, but Janmaat is across to clear ahead of Higuain. Closest either side has come in the second period.

57 min Robben threatens for Netherlands after finding space on the edge of the Argentine box, but the Bayern winger just loses control at the vital moment and Biglia is across to make the challenge. Argentina are down the other end with Messi moments later, but the Barcelona attacker cannot find the run of Zabaleta.

55 min Possession football from the Dutch at the moment, but they are struggling to break through this Argentine defence. Robben comes deep to collect the ball, but runs into traffic and the danger is cleared. Neither Robben nor Van Persie have been able to influence this match for Netherlands thus far.

52 min Half-chance for Messi to threaten for Argentina, but the Barcelona attacker is ruled offside after threatening to break past Vlaar. There is a better tempo to the early stages of the second period, but neither side is giving much away at the moment. One goal could indeed be enough to decide this match.

50 min The resulting free kick is delivered by Sneijder, but his effort is high and wide of the crossbar. Not great from the playmaker truth be told. Still goalless with 50 minutes on the clock in this semi-final.

49 min BOOKING! Demichelis goes into the book for Argentina following a challenge on Robben.

48 min It appears that Netherlands are going to continue with a 3-5-2 formation. Martins Indi has departed, but Blind can slot into centre-back alongside Vlaar and De Vrij. Janmaat, meanwhile, has gone to right wing-back. De Vrij’s first involvement of the second period is to bring Perez to the ground with a forceful shoulder.

46 min Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second 45 minutes. I have a feeling that we could be in for a long night in Sao Paulo. Half-time change for the Dutch, with Janmaat introduced in place of Martins Indi. Netherlands get the second half of this semi-final underway.

9.59pm BENCH WATCH: Netherlands boss Van Gaal has a host of attacking options in reserve this evening, with the likes of Depay, Huntelaar and Lens all capable of making an impact. Argentina, meanwhile, have options in the shape of Aguero, Palacio and Rodriguez. Subs could be vital this evening.

9.54pm STATS: Argentina have just about shaded the possession with 53%, while they have had three attempts, one of which has been on target. Netherlands, however, have had just one attempt off target. It has been slightly scrappy in terms of fouls, meanwhile, with 15 free kicks awarded.

9.49pm So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to an end, with the two teams level at 0-0. In truth, the opening 45 minutes have been just as expected – tight. No real clear chances for either side, with a Garay header just about the closest either team has come to scoring. All to play for here in Sao Paulo.

45 min+2 HALF-TIME: Netherlands 0-0 Argentina

45 min+1 Messi delivers, but it is straight into the arms of Cillessen. The fourth official has indicated that we will play an additional two minutes and we are indeed into the first of those in Sao Paulo.

45 min BOOKING! Bruno Martins Indi becomes the first player in the book, with the Dutch defender fouling Messi in a forward position. For me, that was soft. Free kick Argentina and Messi will take.

44 min Pass, pass, pass from Netherlands, but no real thrust in the final third…

43 min Little over two minutes of the first period remaining and still the score remains level. Argentina have stepped up their efforts in the final third, but Netherlands remain compact in defensive areas.

41 min It does not look too good for Sneijder at the moment as the playmaker leaves the field holding his hamstring. At the moment, Netherlands are playing with 10 men, which is not a good situation against Argentina.

39 min Argentina players are falling down all over the place at the moment as Messi and then Lavezzi are brought to the ground in quick succession. Sneijder also has a problem for the Dutch. No real tempo to the match at the moment with the referee forced to intervene on a number of occasions.

37 min Slightly untidy period of the match in the last couple of minutes with both sides guilty of losing possession too easily in the final third. The linesmen have been heavily involved, meanwhile, with a number of offside calls. In truth, this match has unfolded just as expected. It is extremely tight.

34 min Half-chance for Netherlands as Sneijder delivers a brilliant cross towards De Vrij, but Romero just does enough to punch clear. Van Persie has space inside the Argentine box moments later, but the Dutch skipper is ruled offside. Replays have shown that was a harsh decision. Little over 10 mins of the first half to play.

32 min Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last couple of moments, with Netherlands cautious in possession of the ball. Garay’s header from a corner is just about the closest either side has come thus far. Robben, who has been quiet thus far, wins a corner from Demichelis after breaking past the defender.

30 min Mascherano returns to the field, which is good news, but let’s hope that he is not being too brave for his own good. Little over 15 minutes of the first period remaining and still the two teams are level at 0-0.

28 min It does not look too clever for Mascherano, who is still on the deck. It was a horrible clash of heads between the two players. The Barcelona centre-back might have to depart here. That would be a serious blow.

27 min Argentina have had the better of the action thus far, but the score remains goalless with 27 minutes on the clock. It has been tactically fascinating thus far, but Van Persie and Robben could do with more support from wide positions. Mascherano has a problem here as he clashes heads with Wijnaldum.

25 min CHANCE! The best chance of the match falls to Argentina as Garay meets a corner from Messi, but his header is just over the crossbar. Vlaar just did enough to put off the centre-back.

25 min Again Argentina threaten as Mascherano finds Lavezzi with a wonderful pass before the PSG winger drives a cross into the box, but Kuyt is on hand to clear at the far post. The pressure continues as Perez looks for Higuain, but Vlaar is across to clear. Netherlands just cannot get out of their own half at the moment.

22 min Just a reminder that the winner of this second semi-final will face Germany in the final on Sunday. Still goalless in Sao Paulo, but Argentina are in control of the ball. Not too much from the likes of Van Persie and Robben in the opening 22 minutes. Messi on the other hand, has been heavily involved thus far.

20 min Half-chance for Argentina as Zabaleta drives down the right before curling a low cross towards Higuain, but De Vrij is across to make a fine challenge. The resulting corner is delivered by Messi, but De Jong is on hand to clear. Netherlands are coming under increasing pressure from their South American opponents.

18 min Argentina have just started to find their tempo in the last few minutes, with Messi and in particular Perez, seeing plenty of the ball. Netherlands, however, are so well-drilled in defensive areas. Sneijder looks for Kuyt down the other end, but the former Liverpool attacker just cannot catch up with the pass.

16 min… the resulting free kick is taken by Messi, but his effort is straight into the arms of Cillessen, who collects into his body before releasing Robben down the other end. Good work from the stopper.

15 min Argentina have a free kick on the edge of the Netherlands box when Vlaar brings Perez to the ground…

15 min Half-chance for Netherlands as Sneijder picks up a loose clearance from Mascherano on the edge of the box, but his effort is just wide of the post. Couple of half-chances at either end in the last few minutes

12 min Argentina have a free kick in a wide position when De Vrij goes shoulder-to-shoulder with Lavezzi. The resulting set piece is delivered by Lavezzi, but Van Persie is on hand to head clear. It falls to Perez outside the box, but his effort is high and wide of the crossbar. Still goalless with 12 minutes on the clock.

10 min Possession football from Netherlands in the last couple of minutes, but they are finding it difficult to break through the Argentine defence. Argentina break moments later with Messi, which brings whistles from the crowd. I have a feeling that the Brazilians inside the stadium are supporting Netherlands. Shock!

8 min First sign of Robben as the Dutch winger drives down the left, but Zabaleta is across to make a fine challenge. Netherlands have control of the possession moments later with De Vrij sweeping another pass towards Robben, but the Bayern Munich winger had just moved into an offside position beyond Rojo.

6 min Possession football from Argentina in the early moments, but as expected, Netherlands are tight and compact in defensive areas. Higuain finds space in a wide area before cutting inside to Perez, but the move breaks down on the edge of the box, with Vlaar thrashing clear. At the moment, Netherlands cannot keep the ball.

4 min Slightly untidy from both sides in the last couple of moments with possession conceded in the middle of the park. It has been a fast-paced start, with both teams prepared to move the ball in the final third. Enzo Perez drives towards the edge of the Netherlands box, but De Jong is across to clear at the vital moment.

2 min Early chance for Argentina to threaten as Rojo slides a pass towards Messi, but Cillessen is quick off his line to claim before finding De Jong in the middle of the park. You just get the feeling that the first goal – if there indeed is one – could be vital in this type of match. It could indeed be enough to win it.

0 min Tonight’s referee is Cuneyt Cakir from Turkey. Let’s hope we are not discussing the official come the end of the evening! Right, Argentina get the first half of this World Cup semi-final underway.


8.59pm Everyone inside the stadium is having a brief moment of reflection in tribute to former Real Madrid forward Alfredo Di Stefano, who passed away on Monday.

8.58pm Not the best weather in Sao Paulo tonight it must be said. Let’s hope the football warms things up here. I suspect this match will be more of a contest than last night’s encounter between Germany and Brazil.

8.56pm The national anthems are currently taking place and there are plenty of serious faces on display. Once the pre-match handshakes have been undertaken and the flags have been exchanged, we will be ready to start.

8.53pm Here we go then. Both sets of players emerge from the tunnel to a quite wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium. It is Netherlands against Argentina for the right to face Germany in Sunday’s final.


8.47pm PREDICTION: I shouldn’t think that we will see another 7-1 this evening. In fact, I think one or two goals could be enough to decide this match. Both teams will be well-drilled and it will be up to the star men to influence proceedings. My score prediction is Argentina to just shade it 1-0 in normal time, but I would not be surprised to see this one go all the way to penalties. 8.44pm Sabella, meanwhile, has been in charge of Argentina since 2011. The 59-year-old’s current role is just his second managerial position, having previously led Estudiantes from 2009-2011. As a player, Sabella represented his country eight times and had a three-year spell in England with Sheffield United and Leeds United. 8.41pm What about the two managers for this evening? Van Gaal is currently in his second spell in charge of the Netherlands having previously managed his nation between 2000 and 2002. During a well-travelled managerial club career, Van Gaal has won league titles in Holland, Spain and Germany. Following the completion of the tournament, Van Gaal will take on a new role with Premier League side Manchester United. 8.38pm Arena de S?o Paulo

8.33pm Following the quarter-final clash, Belgium boss Marc Wilmots labelled Argentina as an “ordinary” team. He told reporters: “If I played that way I would have been destroyed by the Belgium press. We were not impressed by Argentina, they were just ordinary.” Argentina will not mind another similar or indeed “ordinary” performance as long as they are in the final come Sunday evening.

8.30pm Much-fancied Belgium were Argentina’s opponents in the quarter-finals and again it was tight, with an early Gonzalo Higuain effort enough for Sabella’s side to progress. Their defence has been criticised this summer, but it is now back-to-back clean sheets, which will do their confidence the world of good.

8.27pm Nigeria caused the South American side a fright in their third group match, but Messi scored twice more to help his side record a 3-2 victory. Next came Switzerland in the last-16 stage and they needed extra-time ? and indeed a strike from Angel di Maria ? to beat the European team in what was a tight match.

8.24pm Argentina came through their group this summer with nine points from three games, but it was not as straightforward as the table might have suggested. Alejandro Sabella’s side recorded a narrow 2-1 win over Bosnia in their opening match of the competition, before beating Iran courtesy of a late Messi strike.


8.18pm It is hard to speak of Argentina without mentioning a certain Lionel Messi. The Barcelona attacker has scored four times for his country this summer and created 19 goalscoring chances for his teammates, which is the most of any player at this tournament. If Messi is to be regarded as the best-ever, success in a World Cup might need to arrive. Kickoff this evening is now less than 45 minutes away… 8.15pm

8.13pm Not including penalty shootouts, Argentina have lost just one of their last 16 World Cup matches, winning 12 times in the process. Recent tournaments have proved frustrating for the South American team, but they are now just two games away from tasting World Cup success once more.

8.10pm Argentina, meanwhile, have been good rather than great this summer. Each of their five wins at this tournament have come by a single goal. Surprisingly, they have also not yet been behind in any game this summer. It will be an interesting test of their character should Netherlands indeed strike the first blow this evening.

8.07pm Netherlands have also had seven different goalscorers at this World Cup, which is a good indicator of just why they have been so successful. Robben and Van Persie have been the star men once more, but a number of other players have taken on the responsibility. Wesley Sneijder in particular has been brilliant for the Dutch in their last couple of matches. The return of De Jong, meanwhile, is crucial…

8.04pm Netherlands have now won 11 of their last 12 World Cup matches, with their only defeat during that run occurring in the 2010 final against Spain. The Dutch also have two players in serious form. Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben has scored eight times in his last 11 appearances for his country ? including three this summer – while skipper Robin van Persie has scored 21 goals in his last 27 games for the Oranje.

8.02pm It is worth noting that should Netherlands triumph tonight, then a European team would finally win the World Cup on South American soil following Germany’s win yesterday. At the moment, only Argentina stand in the way of an all-European final, which seemed extremely unlikely before the tournament had started.


7.56pm Sergio Aguero, meanwhile, is not deemed fit enough to start for Argentina. As a result, Lavezzi continues in attack alongside Messi and Higuain. Enzo Perez comes into the XI in place of the injured Angel di Maria, while there are two Manchester City defenders in the back four – Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis. 7.53pm So there we have it. Netherlands will seemingly once more line up in a 3-5-2 – or indeed 5-3-2 – formation. No real surprises in the XI, but De Jong and Van Persie have both recovered from injury and illness respectively. Jasper Cillessen continues in goal, meanwhile, despite Krul’s heroics in the last round against Costa Rica. 7.50pm TEAMS: NETHERLANDS: Cillessen; Martins Indi, De Vrij, Vlaar; Blind, De Jong, Sneijder, Wijnaldum, Kuyt; Robben, Van Persie ARGENTINA: Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo; Perez, Biglia, Mascherano; Lavezzi, Messi, Higuain 7.46pm TEAM NEWS: Van Persie and De Jong do indeed both start for Netherlands, with Memphis Depay dropping out of the XI. Daley Blind and Dirk Kuyt will seemingly operate the wing-back positions once more. Argentina, meanwhile, are without the injured Angel di Maria. Sergio Aguero is not deemed fit enough to start, leaving Lavezzi up top with Messi and Higuain. Enzo Perez also starts. Full teams to follow. 7.43pm Krul’s introduction worked, with the stopper saving two Costa Rican efforts and help his team into the next round. Right, the team news is just filtering through and it appears that Robin van Persie and Nigel de Jong both start for the Dutch. No word on the Argentina XI as of yet, but news is expected shortly. 7.40pm With respect to Costa Rica, it was a favourable quarter-final draw for Netherlands. However, the match was anything but comfortable for Holland, who simply could not break down the underdogs, with penalties left to decide the outcome. That particular match will be remembered for Van Gaal’s incredible decision to introduce Newcastle United goalkeeper Tim Krul in the final minutes for the penalty shootout. 7.37pmMexico were Netherlands’ opponents in the last-16 stage and it looked as if Louis van Gaal’s side would be heading out of the competition after Giovani dos Santos struck for Mexico early in the second half. However, Holland responded with two late, late goals to break Mexican hearts. 7.34pm Next came a fixture with Chile in a match that would decide who would top the group and therefore avoid the hosts Brazil in the last-16 stage. Netherlands came through that particular match as 2-0 winners to make it nine points from nine in the group. Even at that stage, however, Netherlands were still seen as outsiders to win the entire competition. They have proved a fair few people wrong this summer that is for certain. 7.31pm In terms of their results in the finals, Netherlands opened their Group B campaign with a sensational 5-1 win over Spain, before beating Australia 3-2 to secure their spot in the next round. Chile, meanwhile, beat Spain in their second match to eliminate La Roja from the competition. Before the tournament, many had predicted that Netherlands would fall at the group stage. 7.28pm Netherlands have lost just two of their last 12 World Cup games against South American teams (not including penalty shootouts). They needed spot-kicks to overcome Costa Rica in the last round, which was the sixth time that they have faced a shootout in this particular competition. Against Costa Rica was also the first time that they have converted all five of their penalties in a shootout in a major tournament. 7.25pm The chance to win the World Cup on Brazilian soil is truly an incredible incentive for Argentina. However, Netherlands are certain to provide a stern test. Neither of these teams have been particularly brilliant this summer, at least not consistently, but their star men have pulled them through. 7.22pm Arena de S?o Paulo

7.20pm The last time that Argentina won the World Cup was in 1986. Eight years earlier, as mentioned, they won their first after beating Netherlands in the final. Since then, it has been a fairly disappointing run. They reached the round of 16 in 1994, the quarter-finals in 1998, before failing to make it out of the group in 2002. In 2006 and 2010, they again fell at the quarter-final stage.

7.16pm Argentina, however, have not been in the semi-finals of a World Cup since 1990, which they won before losing to Germany in the final. Argentina’s semi-final record in this particular competition is extremely strong, with four wins from four matches. Can they make it five from five this evening? Netherlands stand in the way.

7.13pm Incredibly, this is Netherlands’ third semi-final appearance in their last four World Cup tournaments and they have reached the final in three of their last seven attempts. The first of those arrived in 1974, before they also finished second in 1978. The Dutch did not qualify in either 1982 or 1986, but returned with a quarter-final finish in 1990. Since then, they have made the quarter-finals in 1994, semi-finals in 1998 and finished as runner-up to Spain in 2010. Netherlands are certainly experienced at this stage.

7.10pm In total, these two teams have met on seven occasions. Argentina’s only win during that run of games occurred in the 1978 World Cup final final. Of the seven other meetings, Netherlands have won four. However, the pair have not met for eight years ? a fairly forgettable goalless draw at the 2006 World Cup.

7.07pm Just a reminder that kickoff this evening is in just under two hours. Be sure to remain with Sports Mole for all the build-up. The team news is expected to filter through in around 40-45 minutes and Netherlands will be hopeful that all-time leading scorer Robin van Persie is available following a stomach complaint. Real Madrid midfielder Angel di Maria, however, is definitely out for Argentina.

7.04pm I don’t particularly want to dwell on last night’s result with the focus now on Netherlands and Argentina, but it must be spoken about. Brazilian hearts were simply broken as Germany scored seven times ? including five in the first half ? to crush the five-time winners on their own patch. It was a stunning performance from the European outfit and one that will forever be remembered in World Cup history.

7.01pm Evening all! Has anyone recovered from last night’s first semi-final yet? What a staggering 90 minutes of football it was as Germany booked their spot in the final with a 7-1 (yes, seven) win over the hosts Brazil. Tonight, the focus is on Netherlands and Argentina. History suggests that the Dutch will enter the match as the favourites, but Argentina ? and a certain Lionel Messi ? will have something to say about that.

By?Matt Law, La Liga Correspondent?



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