SAO PAULO (AFP) – Argentina and the Netherlands were goalless at half-time of their World Cup semi-final at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
In a cagey initial period, Lionel Messi had an early freekick denied by Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen while Sergio Romero, his opposite number, punched away two efforts at the other end.
The kick-off was preceded by applause for Real Madrid’s Argentine-born great Alfredo Di Stefano, who died aged 88 on Monday.
The winner faces Germany in Sunday’s final in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.
Lionel Messi and Argentina were preparing for a World Cup semi-final showdown with the Netherlands here Wednesday as Brazil struggled to come terms with their record mauling by Germany.
Messi spearheads Argentinian hopes in the South American country’s first appearance in the last four for 24 years.
The Dutch meanwhile are desperate to reach Sunday’s final at the Maracana Stadium after finishing as runners-up on three previous occasions.
The beaten 2010 finalists pulled a surprise shortly before kick-off, naming midfield enforcer Nigel de Jong in their starting line-up just over a week after his tournament was placed in doubt following groin muscle injury.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal also named captain Robin van Persie in the Dutch side after expressing concern about his fitness a day earlier.
The prize for the winners of Wednesday’s second semi-final is a date with rampant Germany in this weekend’s showpiece.
Germany ripped hosts Brazil apart 7-1 on Tuesday, the South Americans heaviest ever loss in international football.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said Wednesday no decision on his future would be taken until after the World Cup.
“We still have work,” Scolari said. “We have a commitment with the CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) until the end of the World Cup.”
Brazil face the loser of Wednesday’s second semi-final in the third place play-off in Brasilia on Saturday.
“It is only after this game we will talk with the direction of the CBF, that’s when we will decide,” added Scolari, appointed to a second stint as Brazil coach in December 2012.
Scolari also tried to put a positive spin on Brazil’s performance, pointing out the Selecao had reached the semi-finals for the first time since 2002.
“It’s the first time we reached a semi-final since 2002 so maybe our work wasn’t so bad,” Scolari said.
Scolari has faced calls to go after Tuesday’s debacle in Belo Horizonte.
“Go To Hell Felipao,” the daily O Dia newspaper said along with a photo splash of the manager holding up seven fingers during the game.
“He was responsible for the worst humiliation of the national team in its century-old history,” it said, noting that Scolari had once said that those who don’t like his style can “go to hell”.
Many said Tuesday’s loss at the Mineirao Stadium eclipsed the trauma felt by Brazil when it lost the final to Uruguay at home in 1950.
Globo columnist Fernando Calazans said it was “a much bigger tragedy”.
“Brazilian football has only one solution: to resuscitate. There is no way to go back, recuperate, react. Brazilian football has to be born again. It has to be reborn,” he said.
The failure of the host nation to reach the final comes after a year of public anger in Brazil at the $11 billion spent on hosting the tournament.
Violent protests erupted during last year’s Confederations Cup and erupted sporadically in the build-up to the tournament.
The sense of disbelief at Tuesday’s record defeat rippled across the globe.
“What was that? Hard to believe,” tweeted German great Franz Beckenbauer, who won the trophy as a player in 1974 and then as a coach with West Germany in 1990.
Dutch legend Johan Cruyff also took to Twitter to express admiration for Germany’s performance.
“This is why I consider them the best team in the tournament,” he said.