Messi and co failed to delight in what was a 120 tedious and goalless minutes of football – not helped by a lack of adventure from Holland, who seemed more concerned with stopping the Barcelona man than scoring – but they won through in the end virtue of a penalty shootout.

And unlike Holland’s last outing against Costa Rica, there was no dramatic goalkeeper substitution from boss Louis van Gaal, who had already made three chances bringing off Bruno Martins Indi, Nigel de Jong and Robin van Persie, and it was a player he has previous with – Argentina’s Sergio Romero – who was the hero this time as he saved two spot kicks as Argentina won the shootout 4-2.

After the match, the Manchester United-bound van Gaal revealed that two of his stars had refused to take the first and crucial penalty, which was eventually taken and missed by defender Ron Vlaar.

It was a surprise choice and a poor penalty and van Gaal admitted it ‘hurt’ to lose, made worse by the fact he ‘taught’ Romero ‘how to stop penalties’ – the Argentine worked under the Dutch boss at AZ Alkmaar from 2007.


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Vlaar saw his penalty saved by the excellent Romero

Romero also saved a penalty from Wesley Sneijder who went the same way as he did against Costa Rica – the Argentine must have done his homework.

Holland missed the chance to reach their second straight World Cup final and the win means a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals – when Germany were known as West Germany and Maradona ruled the world (Argentina won in 1986 and Germany in 1990).

Joachim Loew’s side are the heavy favourites given the way they destroyed Brazil. But with Messi in their side, you’d be a fool to discount Argentina.

Images via Getty