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Jul 9, 2014

Grades: Netherlands vs. Argentina

Watch the entire penalty shootout as Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero stops two spot kicks to guide his team to a World Cup final berth.

SAO PAULO -- Here's how individual players from Argentina and the Netherlands rated during a rough chess match of a World Cup semifinal at Arena Corinthians, where the Albiceleste eventually triumphed on penalties following a scoreless draw after extra time.

ARGENTINA

GK, Sergio Romero, 7 -- A little shaky early, when he punched two crosses he could have caught. Yet he grew into the game from there, commanding his box well after that and making two key stops in the shootout to carry his team back to the the final for the first time in 24 years.

DF, Pablo Zabaleta, 6 -- Solid again on the right, the tough-tackling Manchester City man did well to help Ezequiel Garay and Martin Demichelis in the middle.

DF, Ezequiel Garay, 6 -- The centre-back barely put a foot wrong for the sixth straight match in Brazil; he even had a decent chance to score on a 24th-minute header.

DF, Martin Demichelis, 5 -- The mistake-prone defender sent an early message when he took a chunk out of Wesley Sneijder. Was booked in the second half following another hard foul, this time on Arjen Robben.

DF, Marcos Rojo, 6 -- His superb work on the left continued against the Dutch, even if several of his crosses were sent well off the mark.

MF, Javier Mascherano, 7 -- Arguably shouldn't have stayed on the field after suffering a scary head injury in a 25th-minute collision with Georginio Wijnaldum. Yet he stayed and was excellent on both sides of the ball.

Argentina outlasted the Dutch after a tense semifinal. Their reward? A third World Cup final with Germany.
Argentina outlasted the Dutch after a tense semifinal. Their reward? A third World Cup final with Germany.

MF, Lucas Biglia, 5 -- The Lazio man got banged up in a collision with Daryl Janmaat. Was covered by Romero in extra time after being badly beaten by Robben.

MF, Enzo Perez, 7 -- Troubled Dutch full-backs often in the first half and delivered an inch-perfect cross from the right side in the second that Gonzalo Higuain couldn't convert.

FW, Ezequiel Lavezzi, 6 -- Provided dangerous crosses and combination play on the right side and also tracked back well defensively, but tired in the second half.

FW, Lionel Messi, 6 -- His 15th-minute free kick may have been his most dangerous chance. Tried to impose himself more later on but was largely well-contained.

FW, Gonzalo Higuain, 4 -- Skewed a header wide 10 minutes after the break, in part because of some good defending from Janmaat. Was also off target on another chance from a fine Perez cross.

Subs
FW, Rodrigo Palacio, 5 -- Entered in place of Perez in the 81st minute. Couldn't convert a golden scoring chance with his head in the 115th.

FW, Sergio Aguero, 4 -- Replaced Higuain in the 82nd minute. Passed up a clear shot five minutes later, making an ill-advised pass to Palacio instead. Potted his penalty even though Jasper Cillessen should have saved it.

MF, Maxi Rodriguez, 6 -- Came on for the exhausted Lavezzi after 100 minutes. Had a half-chance in the 117th but his weak shot went straight at Cillessen. Redeemed himself later, though, as his successful PK put the Albiceleste into Sunday's final.

NetherlandsNetherlands
ArgentinaArgentina
(2) 0
(4) 0
FT-Pens
Match 62
Game Details

NETHERLANDS

GK, Jasper Cillessen, 5 -- Looked confident and controlled his box well, even if he was rarely tested. With all Dutch subs used, he stayed in for the penalties but couldn't come up with a save.

DF, Ron Vlaar, 8 -- Was locked in and superb throughout, so it was a shame he failed to convert his spot kick. Made several key clearances, including a perfectly timed tackle on Messi after the break.

DF, Stefan de Vrij, 5 -- Displayed good range defensively and won most of his one-on-one battles, many of them against Higuain.

DF, Bruno Martins Indi, 4 -- Coach Louis van Gaal smartly pulled the centre-back after a clumsy first half in which he picked up a yellow card for a hard foul -- one of several -- on Messi.

DF, Daley Blind, 4 -- Did a good job supporting his centre-backs but had trouble dealing with Lavezzi at times. His passing was sometimes off the mark.

Try as he did, Arjen Robben couldn't impose himself on Argentina.
Try as he did, Arjen Robben couldn't impose himself on Argentina.

MF, Nigel de Jong, 6 -- His usual stout defensive work contained Messi well. Great long pass to Robin van Persie in the first half could have resulted in a memorable assist.

MF, Georginio Wijnaldum, 5 -- Fought hard defensively and made several good runs down the right in the second half.

MF, Wesley Sneijder, 5 -- Active early but began to fade even before Demichelis' rough first-half challenge. His free kicks failed to threaten Romero; he was also stunned by the keeper from the spot.

FW, Arjen Robben, 5 -- Limited to just six touches in first half, Robben got better as the game went on, single-handedly creating a pair of good chances late. Mostly held in check, though.

FW, Dirk Kuyt, 7 -- The best player early for the Dutch, the Turkey-based veteran was solid defensively and his passing and decision-making were sharp.

FW, Robin van Persie, 4 -- Made a few good runs behind the Argentine defense but couldn't do much with the little service he got. Was isolated too often to make any impact.

Subs
DF, Daryl Janmaat, 6 -- Replaced Martins Indi at the start of the second half and defended impressively, not least on Higuain's header. Got forward well, too.

MF, Jordy Clasie, 5 -- There was little defensive drop-off after the Feyenoord destroyer entered for De Jong in the 62nd minute.

FW, Klaas Jan Huntelaar -- Came on for the ineffective van Persie in the first period of extra time. Booked for a lunging challenge on Mascherano.

Doug McIntyre

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has watched or attended almost every U.S. men's national team game since Paul Caligiuri's "shot heard 'round the world" and has covered the Yanks for The Mag since 2005. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.