Argentina, Netherlands play a World Cup semifinal to forget

Argentina, Netherlands play a World Cup semifinal to forget
Arjen Robben of the Netherlands did not get many scoring opportunities against Argentina, including defensive-minded Javier Mascherano, in a World Cup semifinal on Wednesday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Koen van Weel / European Pressphoto Agency)

A day after a World Cup match to remember came one to forget. Argentina and the Netherlands slow-danced for two hours, a disappointment given the firepower that Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben brought to the stage.

At some point, the two coaches should have huddled and agreed to dispense with the rest of regulation time, so intent was each to proceed directly to a penalty-kick shootout.

Even the referee wanted to cut some time, having decided to tack on just one stoppage minute to the second extra period when more seemed warranted.

In fact, much attention for awhile was focused on the sideline, where reserve goalkeeper Tim Krul was loosening up for what surely would be an encore performance following his sensational efforts for the Dutch in a quarterfinal victory over Costa Rica.

Whether Dutch Coach Louis van Gaal intended to insert him was unclear. Having already spent two substitutes, he was compelled to use the final one for Robin van Persie, who had been weakened by a stomach ailment. That left keeper Jasper Cillessen, who was deemed unsuited by van Gaal for the previous shootout, in for the live target practice.

Argentina scorched him on all four attempts, though he was not blatantly at fault on any. What the Dutch missed was Krul's trash-talking that seemed to have affected the penalty shooters for Costa Rica, who missed twice and nearly shanked a third attempt. Krul's appearance would have injected some needed drama into a game that was bone dry of it.

Meantime, Argentine keeper Sergio Romero was lightly stressed in fending off half of the Dutch's four tries, and the final shootout score read 4-2. Because Argentina was in more of an attack mode through the 120 minutes, though not by much, the soccer gods would consider the result just.

Plus the outcome sets up a Europe vs. South America finals, which is generally preferred to an intra-continent matchup.

If the World Cup's farewell game resembles Tuesday's semifinal more than Wednesday's semifinal for attacking play, it will be a keepsake and not like a Snapchat photo that disappears quickly from memory.