Scoreless Draw Argentina and Holland Play to a Stalemate

The much anticipated match between titans Holland and Argentina lacked intensity and ended 0-0. Young Argentine star Messi, though, provided a spark.


What many had hoped would be an exciting match up between two of the most impressive teams in the World Cup thus far exhibited little of the excitement Group C offered up last week. Both Argentina and Holland had already qualified for the knock-out rounds and both seemed content with a scoreless draw on Wednesday night in Frankfurt.

Argentina had the better of the play in the first half, with young star Lionel Messi -- starting for the first time in a World Cup match -- providing brief flashes of his potential. The Argentineans early displayed the kind of ball control, highlighted by crisp, clean passing, that helped them demolish Serbia-Montenegro and beat Ivory Coast. But they could only create a handful of real chances. The second half degenerated into two teams doing their best not to suffer an unlucky injury.

"They were strong but we worked hard and we were able to get a point together as a team," said Holland star Ruud van Nistelrooy on ZDF television after the match. "I think that's the most we could have gotten out of the game. The Argentines played the better game and we had to play a lot of defense. They have great players and they deserve a lot of respect."

The 0-0 match means that Argentina wins the group on goal differential and will face Mexico in the round of 16 on Saturday in Leipzig. Holland will play Portugal in Nuremberg on Sunday after Figo and company defeated Mexico 2-1 earlier on Wednesday. The other match in Group C was meaningless and saw Ivory Coast defeat Serbia-Montenegro 3-2.

Both Jose Pekerman, the coach of Argentina, and Holland trainer Marco van Basten elected to rest a number of players and protect others carrying yellow cards into the match. Argentine captain Juan Pablo Sorin was rested and Pekerman's two starting forwards Hernan Crespo and Javier Saviola likewise did not play for fear of picking up second warnings. The Dutch side played without Arjen Robben, the star of Holland's opening match victory over Serbia-Montenegro. Four other Dutch starters also stayed out of the action.

Argentina's replacement attack managed to create a bit of uncertainty in the Dutch defense. Carlos Tevez appeared trying to work his way into the starting rotation and was constantly giving his Dutch tenders headaches. His hard shot in the 17th minute went just wide and in the 74th minute he tested Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar with a drive from the edge of the area which van der Sar just managed to push wide. Just before time, another dangerous shot from Tevez sailed just over the crossbar.

The 18-year-old Messi got off few good shots but occasionally impressed with individual moves to get around Dutch defenders. He also was able to set up a number of chances for his teammates before being subbed out in the 70th minute.

A free kick by Juan Roman Riquelme was deflected by Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz into his own post in the first half.

The Netherlands seemed content to rely on periodic thrusts forward but were often forced to settle for shots from distance by a stingy Argentine defense. In the 18th minute, the Dutch side got its first good shot on goal following a mistake by the Argentine defense. Dirk Kuijt tried to sneak it inside the near post but the keeper was well positioned for the save. More confusion in front of the Argentine goal led to a shot by Philip Cocu that went just wide.

Despite the lack of intensity, both teams still must be counted among the favorites in the tournament. At the end of the match, ball possession was divided evenly between them.

cgh/ap/reuters

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