• FT





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  • FT

    Ivory Coast


    Serb & Mont


  • FT






Waldstadion, Frankfurt, Germany

Referee: Luis Medina Cantalejo | Attendance: 48000

* Local time based on your geographic location.

0 - 0


Game 37

Netherlands 0-0 Argentina

The supporters sang their hearts out and beat their drums but the players of Argentina and Holland were content to play out a goalless draw before regrouping for the business end of this World Cup.

Juan Riquelme was the orchestrator at the heart of Argentina's midfield and there was enough quality on show to suggest either of these teams could hold aloft the trophy in Berlin on July 9.

As it is the draw means Argentina play Mexico in the last 16 while Holland face Portugal.

And for England fans, should Sven-Goran Eriksson's men get past Ecuador on Sunday, the future could now be orange in the quarter-finals with the reassuring fact that they cannot meet Argentina until the final.

This World Cup has been blessed with some fine spectacle and some wonderful matches but no-one has brought a thrilling rhythm on and off the field quite like Argentina.

The first half was played to an accompaniment from the stands which was truly hypnotic.

The football, too, had a pleasing tempo and always at the heart of the action was Riquelme.

The Villarreal midfielder has that precious sporting gift, the ability to find space and time where others cannot. He organised the major share of Argentina's attacking options in a match to test the power.

A muscle-flexing exercise with the prize of winning Group C, but also one eye on the tough challenges ahead after both teams had qualified for the knock-out phase by beating Serbia and Montenegro and the Ivory Coast.

Chelsea's Arjen Robben was rested as the Dutch made five changes from the side which beat Ivory Coast, while Manchester United's Edwin Van der Sar was equalling a Dutch record of 112 caps held by former Barcelona and Rangers star Frank de Boer.

For Argentina there was a first start for Lionel Messi, the youngster saddled with the tag of the new Maradona and whose boots bear the words 'La Mano de Dios' - the hand of God - overlaid on an 86 symbol, and who has been recovering from a thigh injury.

Much is expected of Messi and Argentina, who had set the tournament alight with their 6-0 demolition of Serbia and Montenegro.

And it was Argentina who commanded so much of the territory and possession.

If it had been a boxing match Argentina would clearly have won the first half on points.

Carlos Tevez sent a left foot shot spinning past the far post, a Riquelme corner was tipped over by Van der Sar and a thunderbolt of a shot from Maxi Rodriguez sailed just wide of the goalkeeper's flying dive and his post.

A Riquelme free-kick also sliced across Van der Sar's goal and Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz stuck out a boot and was relieved to see the ball ricochet back off the angle of bar and post.

It was desperate defending and on the stroke of half-time a Messi left-foot drive was also plucked out of the air by Van der Sar.

Holland's only threat of note in the first 45 minutes came from a near-post strike from Dirk Kuyt.

Riquelme picked up where he left in the second half, a surging break and a right-foot shot skimming just wide of the post.

But the Dutch are a dogged and determined team, technically adept and defensively sound. They clearly also had an eye on the future, withdrawing first Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and then Arsenal's Robin van Persie to conserve energy.

For all Argentina's dominance Phillip Cocu might have given the Dutch the lead with a left-foot shot tipped aside by Roberto Abbondanzieri.

After 70 minutes Messi was replaced by Julio Cruz but, like Wayne Rooney for England, the extended run-out will have sharpened the teenager's fitness.

Bigger and better nights could be afoot before the tournament is done.

Tevez, the man of the match, brought a couple more saves from Van der Sar but neither side was prepared to give that extra push for victory.

There is time for that soon enough.