10 July 2014 06:03
Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano could not contain his emotions following his team’s 4-2 shootout win over Netherlands.
Mascherano, who suffered a knock to the head in the first half but kept playing despite initially falling to the ground, was arguably Argentina’s best player throughout the scoreless 120 minutes before the penalty shootout that decided Wednesday’s FIFA World Cup semi-final.
The 30-year-old defensive midfielder had 104 touches against Netherlands and a passing accuracy of 84 per cent, while he recovered the ball nine times, completed three tackles and three interceptions.
But it was Mascherano’s sliding tackle block to deny Dutch forward Arjen Robben in second-half stoppage time that was the most crucial moment as the Barcelona man ensured extra time would be required.
A clever flick on the edge of the box from Wesley Sneijder released Robben through on goal but as the Bayern Munich winger prepared to shoot, Mascherano slid in to block the shot out for a corner.
Argentina went on to win the shootout to qualify for their first World Cup final since 1990.
“We will play a final at the World Cup and we have to enjoy it because these things happen only once in lifetime,” said a tearful Mascherano after the semi-final in Sao Paulo.
Argentina will play Germany in the final on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, mirroring their last appearance in a World Cup decider, when they lost 1-0 to West Germany in Italy.
Four years earlier, Diego Maradona had inspired Argentina to a 3-2 victory – and the South Americans’ second world title – over West Germany.
Mascherano confirmed Argentina had aimed to reach the final and, having achieved that goal, the physical midfielder urged Alejandro Sabella’s entire squad to do everything to triumph at the Maracana.
“We are the 23 players and the coaching staff that do this and hopefully we can crown this Sunday with a title,” he said.