/ Soccer

Argentina top Group C after scoreless draw

Updated: Thursday, 14 Jun 2007 16:19

Edwin van der Sar played a major role in holding Argentina
Edwin van der Sar played a major role in holding Argentina

A high quality first-half gave way to a training ground second as Argentina and the Netherlands failed to find a goal in a scoreless draw in Frankfurt.

The Dutch team, who like the Argentines posted two victories over group rivals Serbia and Montenegro and Ivory Coast, finished in second place on goal difference and will play Group D winners Portugal.

Argentina had a raft of chances throughout the match, and the Dutch had two fine first-half clearances by defender Khalid Boulahrouz and one outstanding save late in the game by Edwin van der Sar to thank for a clean sheet.

Argentine strikers Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, along with  midfield duo Maxi Rodriguez and Juan Riquelme, caused havoc in the Dutch defence early on with their tight combinations of fast,  accurate passing and blistering counter-attacking speed.

Teenager Messi made his mark in the eighth minute, playing a dangerous through ball into the area, which Boulahrouz just managed to get his foot to ahead of the onrushing Esteban Cambiasso and Nicolas Burdisso.

Man-of-the-match Tevez had a chance just after the quarter-hour, turning inside Phillip Cocu and unleashing a powerful left-footed shot just past the outside post of captain van der Sar, who was winning his 112th cap to draw level on all-time appearances for the Oranje with Frank de Boer.

The Netherlands' best chance came a minute later, but Dirk Kuyt drilled a shot just wide. Van der Sar was then called into action in the 27th minute to punch away a swerving Riquelme corner.

From the ensuing corner Kuyt brought down Tevez on the edge of  the box and the Dutch fans had the imposing frame of Boulahrouz to thank again as he lunged to fend off the free-kick  from Tevez's feet onto the post and away.

Rodriguez then watched in agony as his blistering half-volley beat van der Sar but drifted late and shaved off the post. On the stroke of half-time, van der Sar saved a Messi shot after  the Barcelona striker was allowed far too much time in front of  goal.

The second-half started with Riquleme taking advantage of the  Dutch defence standing off to fire a shot that narrowly missed goal,  and Rodriguez following up shortly after with a shot that flew  high.

But the Dutch did manage to clamp down the Argentinians, Wesley Sneijder and Cocu - winning his 100th cap - dropping into deeper positions to nullify the threat of the free-running Tevez.

But the Netherlands were obviously lacking the creative spark provided by the rested Arjen Robben, Giovanni van Bronkhorst and Mark Van Bommel. That said, the Dutch pressure almost paid off in the 67th minute, Cocu going close after good work by Rafael van der Vart.

With Messi and Riquelme both replaced by coach Jose Pekerman, the game fizzled out somewhat and swung towards the Dutch.

But it was fittingly left to the record-equalling van der Sar to save the day for the Dutch, defying his 35 years to superbly palm away a great strike by Tevez in the 73rd minute.

Live!
Powered by NewsWhip