The 2014 World Cup finals are set: Germany v. Argentina in what should be a clash of the highest order.
On Wednesday it was Argentina who booked their place in the finals after 120 minutes of scoreless action with the Netherlands was settled in a penalty shootout.
Both managers made changes to their teams entering the match with Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella replacing the injured Angel di Maria with Enzo Perez and swapping left-back Jose Basanta for Marcos Rojo and Dutch manager Louis van Gaal bringing on Nigel de Jong in the place of Memphis Depay.
Here’s how each player from the Netherlands-Argentina fared on a scale of 1 to 10.
ARGENTINA PLAYER RATINGS
Sergio Romero – 9
With the exception of a few key punches, Romero had very little to do in regulation and extra time but came up huge in penalties, saving shots from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder.
Marcos Rojo – 7
After serving a suspension against Costa Rica, Rojo inserted himself beautifully into the Argentine defense, working particularly well with Martin Demichelis in shutting down Arjen Robben.
Martin Demichelis – 8
A different player on the international level, Demichelis has established a fantastic partnership with Ezequiel Garay and was rock-solid for 120 minutes.
Ezequiel Garay – 8
Nearly scored a 25th minute header and was a constant nuisance to Robin van Persie.
Pablo Zabaleta – 8
Alongside Philip Lahm, Zabaleta has proven himself the best right-back in the world. Made a handful of fantastic sliding tackles while proving himself a nuisance overlapping on the wing.
Javier Mascherano – 9 STAR MAN
Best match of his career. Mascherano was everywhere on Wednesday, dropping into the back four to help defend and driving the midfield forward on the attack. His most impressive feat came in the first minute of injury time when his slide tackle on Robben saved a surefire goal. He then duplicated the tackle in the 96th minute. Sensational.
Lucas Biglia – 5
Despite putting in a furious shift, Biglia didn’t see much of the ball and arguably had his smallest impact of the tournament.
Enzo Perez – 6
Did decent in the place of Di Maria with a few notable overlaps and link-ups but faded throughout the match.
Ezequiel Lavezzi – 7
Strong match for Lavezzi, who found plenty of space down the right side and was arguably Argentina’s most creative attacker moving forward.
Gonzalo Higuain – 5
Got caught dropping deep to pick up balls and did well to hold up the play but stymied his side from going forward by doing. Couldn’t establish a link with Messi but did come close to scoring, putting his effort on the wrong side of the side netting. Frustrating.
Lionel Messi – 4
A shocking performance from Messi, nowhere near his standard or where he needs to be if he’s to guide his country to glory. Looked frustrated, lost dribbles and didn’t seem bothered by the fact that he wasn’t seeing enough of the ball.
Rodrigo Palacio – N/A
On for Perez in the 81st, Palacio was lively and came closest to scoring with a header that Jasper Cillessen did well to save.
Maxi Rodgriguez – N/A
Came on for Lavezzi with 20 minutes left and saw little of the ball but did convert the final penalty to seal Argentina’s spot in the final.
Sergio Aguero – 5
An 81st minute substitute for Higuain, Aguero was too slow dispatching the one chance he saw. Clearly still injured, he’s a shadow of his former self but did manage to convert his penalty.
NETHERLANDS PLAYER RATINGS
Jasper Cillessen – 7
Enjoyed some confident saves and showed some nice foot-skills in regulation but could’ve done better in the shootout, missing Garay’s and Rodriguez’s efforts when he should’ve done better.
Dirk Kuyt – 7
Typical Kuyt. Nothing special but hard-working and dependable. Even dispossessed Messi a few times and took his spot kick well.
Ron Vlaar – 8
Like Mascherano, this was the best performance of Vlaar’s life. Yes, he missed his penalty but he should’ve never been shooting in the first place. During regulation and extra time, Vlaar was a beast, putting in a number of brilliant sliding tackles on Messi.
Stefan De Vrij – 7
Enjoyed a few big tackles and kept the back five tight, De Vrij has made a name for himself in this tournament.
Bruno Martins Indi – 3
A poor game from the big man, who found himself caught out of position a number of times and subbed out at half time.
Daley Blind – 6
Found it difficult containing Zabaleta, Perez and Lavezzi early on but settled in late in the match when it counted.
Georgino Wijnaldum – 5
It was a big ask for this young player, especially to play inside the park opposed to his preferred winger position. Did ok at times but too often gave the ball away needlessly in the offensive third.
Wesley Sneijder – 6
An inconsistent match from Sneijder, who looked dangerous at times and lost at others. A disappointing end to a great World Cup.
Nigel De Jong – 7
Despite returning from injury De Jong put in a typical yeoman-like shift for Van Gaal, leaving it all on the pitch. It’s never pretty but it’s so effective.
Arjen Robben – 6
Quiet and subdued early on but found a way through in the 91st and 96th minutes only to see his shot blocked by Mascherano. Looked lively and likely to score in extra time when everyone else’s tongue was wagging. Spot kick was well taken sealed a fantastic cup for Robben.
Robin Van Persie – 4
Brutal match for Van Persie. Clearly affected by the flu he’s had over the last few days, the striker wasn’t helped out by Van Gaal’s setup that required him to drop deep to pick up balls in the midfield. Arguably shouldn’t have started.
Daryl Janmaat – 6
In for Martins Indi at halftime, Janmaat was unspectacular but solid in disrupting the link between Messi and Higuain/Aguero.
Jordy Claise – 8
Brilliant in possession coming on for De Jong. Settled the midfield and had the Dutch playing their best football. An orchestrator for the future.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar – N/A
Barely touched the ball after coming on in the 96th minute.