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Dutch shoot-out demons return to haunt them

By Agencies - Jul 10,2014 - Last updated at Jul 10,2014

SAO PAULO — Traditional Dutch frailty in penalty shoot-outs again proved their Achilles heel when they lost 4-2 on spot-kicks to Argentina after a goalless World Cup semifinal on Wednesday.

Coach Louis van Gaal was forced to use defender Ron Vlaar as his first penalty taker and he was also left to regret being unable to send on his expert spot-kick saver Tim Krul for the shoot-out.

“I asked two players to take the first kick before deciding on Vlaar because I thought Vlaar was the best player on the field and I thought he had a great deal of confidence,” Van Gaal told reporters.

“But it goes to show, when push comes to shove it is not easy to score a penalty kick. Everybody knows that.”

Van Gaal did not name the other player he had asked to take the first kick, a task handed in the quarter-final win over Costa Rica to striker Robin van Persie who was substituted in extra time against Argentina.

Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt scored their penalties but midfielder Wesley Sneijder also missed while the Argentines converted four out of four to reach Sunday’s final against Germany.

The Dutch have now lost two out of three penalty shoot-outs at World Cups as well as three out of four in European Championships.

“When you take one you have to score and that didn’t happen, so it wasn’t good enough,” Vlaar said.

“I would never walk away from my responsibility. I wasn’t nervous, I was focused. But it must go in and it didn’t.

“It’s tough, but that’s what sport is about,” he added. “It really hurts, a dream which gets put out.”

Van Gaal also rued the fact he could not use substitute Krul in the shoot-out as he did so successfully against Costa Rica.

First-choice Jasper Cillessen had failed to stop any of the 13 penalties he has faced in his professional career and that number increased to 17 on Wednesday. 

Fine saves 

Krul made two fine saves in the shoot-out against Costa Rica but Van Gaal had used all three substitutions against Argentina so Cillessen had to stay on the field.

“If I had had the opportunity to substitute Jasper I would have done that but I had already used three substitutes so I couldn’t do that,” the Dutch coach told reporters.

“I thought it was necessary to get Van Persie out because he was on his last legs,” he added. “My feeling was that [Klaas-Jan] Huntelaar would make the goal.”

Argentina keeper Sergio Romero emerged as his team’s hero by saving two of the four Dutch spot-kicks and he is a player Van Gaal knows well.

“The penalty series is always a matter of luck,” the Dutch coach said. “And, of course, I taught Romero how to stop penalties so that hurts.”

Van Gaal brought Romero to AZ Alkmaar in 2007 when he was coach and although he later said his comments were made in jest his hurt was evident.

“It is the most terrible scenario to lose on penalties at the very least we were the equal party in the match if not the better team so that of course is a big disappointment,” he said.

Biiter rivals

Brazilians might have thought that their World Cup nightmare couldn’t possibly get any worse — and then bitter rivals Argentina reached the final in their own backyard Wednesday.

Still agonising over their traumatic 7-1 semifinal defeat to Germany just 24 hours earlier, Brazilians will now have to watch Argentina and their superstar Lionel Messi battle for the trophy in Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana Stadium on Sunday.

Many Brazilians rooted for the Netherlands to beat their South American neighbours in Wednesday’s semifinal. But Argentina saw off the dogged Dutch 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out after a 0-0 draw in 120 minutes of attritional stalemate.

“Seeing Argentina in the final in our home hurts, especially after the Selecao’s worst ever defeat,” said Marcio Carneiro da Silva, 36, a mailman drowning his sorrows with a beer on the terrace of a Rio de Janeiro restaurant.

His friend Cesar Augusto, 37, already picked a new team for Sunday.

“Now I’m German,” he said.

Brazilians noted that the final will be in the same stadium where Brazil lost the decisive game of the 1950 tournament to Uruguay, a defeat that traumatised the country.

We are all Germany 

“The nightmare continues,” wrote O Dia newspaper in its online edition.

“In addition to not being able to dream about a sixth title, Brazilians will have to live with the real possibility of one of its main rivals triumphing in the ultimate football temple,” it said.

The sports daily Lance used a Twitter hashtag for its title, #SomosTodosAlemanha! (We Are All Germany). Argentines responded on the social media website by repeatedly typing the number 7, reminding Brazilians of their humiliating defeat.

Argentines were on cloud nine, singing and chanting at the stadium in Sao Paulo and in bars across Brazil.

“Reaching the final in Brazil is the best thing that could happen to us, although I would have preferred to beat them in the final,” said Miguel Martin, 32, a truck driver wearing a hat in Argentina’s blue and white colours who watched the game at a public screening in Sao Paulo.

Brazil and Argentina have battled for football supremacy in South America for decades.

Brazilians flaunt their record five World Cup titles at Argentines, whose team has won the trophy twice.

Throughout the World Cup, Argentine fans chanted in stadiums that football legend Diego Maradona was better than Brazilian great Pele.

But the competition goes beyond the pitch. Argentina was a leading emerging nation in the early 20th century but it was eclipsed by Brazil in economic and political might in recent decades.

Unbearable nightmare 

At the official “Fan Fest” in Sao Paulo, some Brazilians wore the Dutch team’s orange colours, applauding every time the Netherlands were close to scoring.

Now they have to cope with the possibility of President Dilma Rousseff handing the trophy to Argentine captain Messi.

“I can’t imagine Dilma giving the trophy to Argentina at the Maracana. This can’t happen,” said Marcos Raimondi, a 44-year-old economist wearing the official Dutch team jersey. “It’s worse than what happened yesterday. It’s a nightmare. Unbearable.”

Amadeus Marques, a 27-year-old doctor also in Dutch regalia, was equally dumbstruck.

“This is incredible. I feel the same sensation as yesterday. Since the fourth German goal I was already hoping that Argentina would not go through and that we would play them for third place.”

But not all Brazilians were rooting against their South American peers.

Leonan Freitas, a 33-year-old bank worker, was the only one among a group of friends sipping beers at a Rio bar who cheered for Argentina.

“Argentina is a neighbour. I want South America to win,” he said to his friends’ disapproval. “I was more scared of losing the third-place game to Argentina.”

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