Netherlands 0-0 Argentina (Arg win 4-2 on pens)
9 July 2014
Arena Corinthians, São Paulo
World Cup Semi Final
Another 0-0 draw after extra-time and another penalty shoot-out, but a different result as the Netherlands lost the UFWC title and crashed out of the World Cup, with Argentina becoming the new Unofficial Football World Champions and claiming a place in the World Cup Final. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was the hero, saving shoot-out kicks from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder to give his side victory. Argentina will play Germany on Sunday with the official FIFA and unofficial UFWC titles both at stake.
The Dutch were unable to repeat their remarkable penalty shoot-out win over Costa Rica, which was notable for coach Luis van Gaal’s bold decision to substitute goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen ahead of the shoot-out. His replacement Tim Krul saved two penalties, and won that match for the Netherlands. However, van Gaal kept faith with Cillessen, who started today’s match. And, having made three substitutions, the Dutch were unable to bring on Krul. Cillessen, who has never saved a penalty in his career, failed to stop any of the Argentine kicks as his team crashed out of the World Cup.
The Netherlands (some say Holland) had started the match with only one change from the 11 that beat Costa Rica, with Nigel de Jong returning from injury in place of Memphis Depay. In a 5-3-2 formation, Stefan De Vrij, Vlaar and Martins Indi played across the back, with Daley Blind and Dirk Kuyt as wing backs. De Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum and Sneijder were in the middle, with Arjen Robben supporting captain Robin van Persie up front. Van Persie had overcome a stomach bug to play, but he would be substituted in extra time having failed to make an impression.
Argentina were last UFWC champions in October 2013, when they lost to Uruguay without the injured Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Javier Mascherano. All three stars were present and correct for this match. Enzo Perez replaced the injured Angel Di Maria, and Marcos Rojo came in for Jose Basanta. Alejandro Sabella set his team up as a familiar-looking 4-3-3. Romero kept goal in front of a back four of Ezequiel Garay, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Rojo. Mascherano, Perez and Lucas Biglia made up the three-man midfield, with Ezequiel Lavezzi and captain Messi supporting Higuain up front.
It was an incredibly tight match, with little space for either side to work in. Argentina tried to work the ball down the right hand flank, but the Dutch eventually closed this avenue down, leaving nowhere to run for either side. The best chance of the first half was a Messi free-kick that was comfortably smothered by Cillessen. The second half was similarly short of goalscoring opportunities until the last minute, when Robben was denied by a great tackle from man-of-the-match Mascherano.
Extra time saw more of the same, with Messi a peripheral figure, and Robben failing to create anything else of note. Argentine substitute Rodgrigo Palacio had the best chance, but headed weakly into Cillessen’s hands. The poor game inevitably headed into a penalty shoot-out.
The pressure was on the Dutch from the moment the otherwise excellent Vlaar missed the first kick. Maxi Rodriguez scored what was Argentina’s winning penalty to secure the UFWC title and a place in the final. This was Argentina’s 58th UFWC title match victory. They are third in the all-time rankings, eight wins clear of the fourth-placed Dutch.
The next UFWC title match is of course the World Cup Final, on Sunday, 13 July, at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. Argentina will face Germany, who humiliated Brazil 7-1 in their semi final. Germany have won 27 UFWC title matches, and are ranked eighth in the world. The Germans were last Unofficial Football World Champions during Euro 2000 tournament, where they lost the title to England. They last contested a UFWC title match in 2002, when they lost 3-1 to the Netherlands.
The winner of Sunday’s match will be the official FIFA champions and the unofficial UFWC champions, and therefore the undisputed champions! The last team to unify the official and official titles was Spain, at the last World Cup in 2010. The current World Cup tournament will be the ninth at which the official and unofficial titles have been unified. (The titles have also been unified outside of World Cup competitions.) The previous eight tournaments that provided undisputed champions were:
1974 West Germany
You can find out everything you need to know about the UFWC in our official handbook, Unofficial Football World Champions, which contains a complete history of the unofficial competition. The 2014 edition, updated for the World Cup, is out now.