Netherlands v Argentina & The 2014 World Cup Semi-Final You Won't Remember

The Sao Paulo contest was quickly forgotten
20:00, 08 Dec 2022

Were you to raise the 2014 World Cup semi-final in conversation, everybody would have an opinion. Brazilians would wince, calling it one of the lowest moments in their nation’s storied football history, while the rest of the world would join Germany fans in reliving every last ounce of the Selecao’s pain.

But there was another semi-final 24 hours later. One that didn’t finish 7-1. One that didn’t come even close to providing the sort of thrills and spills that the now-dubbed Mineiraco had delivered by the bucketload. One that anybody who wasn’t present in Sao Paulo will have forgotten long before their head hit the pillow that night. Unlike the events in Belo Horizonte which had preceded it, the last-four clash between the Netherlands and Argentina was never going to be worthy of its own Wikipedia page.

I was one of the ‘fortunate’ ones to have been at the Arena Corinthians to see the after-show. When it comes to telling the grandkids about all the football matches I have been lucky enough to witness over the years, this is the one I’ll probably leave for last.


It should have been bloody brilliant. The Dutch had smashed reigning champions Spain 5-1 in their opening Group B game then beaten Australia in a topsy-turvy five-goal thriller before seeing off Chile and coming from a goal down with two minutes left to dramatically beat Mexico with an injury-time penalty. And in the quarters against Costa Rica, Louis van Gaal had brought on substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul in the dying moments of extra-time then watched as the Newcastle United shot-stopper kept out Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to send the Oranje to the last four.

On the other side of the ledger, Argentina had a 27-year-old Lionel Messi at the absolute peak of his powers alongside the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria, as well as a travelling army of supporters who had flooded over the border into Brazil to follow them. The Albiceleste hadn’t been as free-scoring as the Netherlands, but they appeared to be peaking just at the right time.

What followed was two-and-a-half hours of rubbish. If you ever get the chance to watch it back, don’t. In fact, if you come across a repeat broadcast on the web, report it to YouTube. Hell, report it to the police.


Two of the most storied nations in world football, the countries of Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff, of Ruud Gullit and Ossie Ardiles, served up a bowl of tripe. The attacking talent on display that night included Messi, Higuain, Lavezzi, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. Yet it was the likes of Ron Vlaar and Martin Demichelis who featured most heavily. People had come to see Messi and Robben but were instead getting their fill of Daryl Janmaat and Lucas Biglia. There were absolutely no opportunities in front of goal worth reciting.

The one thing that kept us close to the edge of our seats was the possibility of Krul replacing Jasper Cillessen once more for the inevitable penalty shootout, but even that eventuality was robbed from us when Van Gaal replaced Van Persie with Klaas Jan Huntelaar six minutes into extra time in the Dutch’s final change. The last hope of some fun was gone.

Even the penalties were dull. Once Vlaar had missed the first, the Dutch were always behind. Sneijder’s effort – the Netherlands’ third – was well saved by Sergio Romero and Argentina were never going to give up a two-goal lead. When Maxi Rodriguez’s kick burst through the hands of Cillessen to secure the Albiceleste’s first final since 1990, the celebrations from their fans were very nearly matched in the neutral areas of the stadium given that we could now all leave the God-forsaken proceedings behind us. 

Please, please let their quarter-final in Lusail on Friday be better than their last World Cup encounter. Not even this wretched tournament deserves another night like that one in Sao Paulo. Van Gaal is once more tasked with devising a plan to stop Messi. What could possibly go wrong?!


*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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