Argentina, Netherlands play out 0-0 draw

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Argentina won Group C after holding the Netherlands to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday in their final match of the first round.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
  • Total Shares


Argentina won Group C after holding the Netherlands to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday in their final match of the first round. The two-time champion Argentines will face Mexico in the second round on Saturday in Leipzig, while the Dutch face Portugal on Sunday in Nuremberg. Both teams had already qualified for the last 16. Lionel Messi made his first World Cup start for Argentina, and coach Jose Pekerman fielded four other second-string players, proving his team has strength in depth. Messi, who played for 69 minutes, ran the show for much of the time he was on the field. He set up chances for teammates, tested the inexperienced Dutch defense and showed the skills only a precious few players in the world have. When he was replaced, Diego Maradona applauded him from the stands. At the same time, Netherlands winger Arjen Robben was on the bench, saving his strength for the second round. The Dutch also played without four other starters and the performance showed that, somehow, coach Marco van Basten can earn results against even the toughest of opposition. In his Dutch record-equaling 112th international, goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar produced the save of the match, a one-handed dive to swipe out a 20-meter (yard) drive from Carlos Tevez in the 74th minute. Overall, the clash of the 1978 finalists rarely produced the intensity everyone had hoped for. It made Messi's performance all the more exciting. Given space and time, the FC Barcelona prodigy was a joy to watch by the sellout crowd of 48,000. He had been out injured in the closing stages of his European club season, and he showed an eagerness wanted to make up for time lost. In the 10th minute, he picked out a run of Esteban Cambiasso and sent the Inter Milan midfielder through the heart of the Dutch defense, forcing Khalid Boulahrouz into a goal-saving tackle. In the 33rd minute, he set up Maxi Rodriguez on the opposite right side, but his shot went into the side netting. Just ahead of the halftime whistle, he took on the whole Dutch defense on his own, and his 20-meter shot whistled wide past Van der Sar. In the stands, Maradona was shouting the new star of the Albiceleste toward goal. When the going was that good, thousands of Argentine fans were singing "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ola, Argentina cada dia te quiero mas," or "Argentina, I love you more every day." For the first time at the World Cup, even the Dutch fans were thoroughly outperformed. On set pieces, Argentina still goes with Juan Roman Riquelme and, even there, Messi had his impact. Once Riquelme realized the Dutch were too tall for crosses, he sent a low one into the box, and there Messi pressured to the extent that Boulahrouz pushed the ball onto his own post. In reply, the Dutch could do little. Its only chance came when defender Nicolas Burdisso gave the ball away to Dirk Kuyt and the forward failed to pick out the open Rafael van der Vaart in the center and fired straight at Roberto Abbondanzieri from too tight an angle. Ruud van Nistelrooy was replaced in the 55th minute, totally in the grip of an ironclad defence. Perhaps the only weakness of Argentina was on show late in the game. Suddenly, the Dutch started outrunning them and for the only time in the game, pressured the defence. (AP)

For the latest Sports news , like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and get the NDTV Cricket app for Android or iOS

  • Football

Leave a comment