SAO PAULO - Lionel Messi's Argentina beat Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout in Sao Paulo on Wednesday to reach the World Cup final for the first time since 1990.
Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved penalties by Wesley Sneijder and Ron Vlaar to take his side through.
The South Americans play Germany in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
Penalties were required after the two sides were goalless after extra time, the first ever World Cup semi-final to produce no goals after 120 minutes.
Argentina went through after Maxi Rodriguez converted their fourth and decisive spot-kick to add to those converted by Messi, Ezequiel Garay and Sergio Aguero.
This will be the third time Argentina have faced Germany in the World Cup final after 1986 and 1990.
Argentine forward Lionel Messi inspired his side with a cool penalty shoot. PHOTO/AFP
Argentina's goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved Dutch defender Ron Vlaar's penalty. PHOTO/AFP
Midfielder Wesley Sneijder failed to insipre the Dutch after failing to convert his penalty kick. PHOTO/AFP
After the high drama of Germany's 7-1 mauling of Brazil on Tuesday the second semi-final turned into a prolonged stalemate.
Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain had the best opportunity at a rainy Corinthians Arena but his effort to connect with Enzo Perez's cross landed in the side netting.
Four-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi had the only shot on target, an early freekick thumped through the Dutch wall that keeper Jasper Cillessen stopped.
In the 90th minute, Arjen Robben raced into the box with the ball at his feet but Javier Mascherano produced a superb tackle to extinguish the threat.
Argentina will now play Germany in Sunday's final at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana.
EARLIER IN PICTURES . . .
(Photos by AFP)
The semi-final encounter between the Netherlands and Argentina could not be settled in the space of 90 minutes. Here Dutch forward Robin van Persie escapes a high boot challenge
It was so tight a contest that it drew Argentina's goalkeeper Sergio Romero so often out of his comfort zone
Of course the Dutch had to constantly keep their attention on Argentine forward and captain Lionel Messi, who found himself bundled a number of times in the game
For the either set of fans, such a decider of a match inspires plenty of nerves and tension and anxiety and most definitely, endless prayers!
Let your eyes not trick you. That booking wasn't for Netherlands' midfielder Wesley Sneijder as it appears to be. Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir was instead showing the yellow card to Sneijder's teammate Bruno Martins Indi (2nd-R)) who had made life for Messi a little too uncomfortable on the pitch. He was substituted later on coming into the second half.
Argentina's coach Alejandro Sabella clearly was not a settled man on a night when his side had to play hardest with a place in final of the World Cup at stake
So he constantly bellowed instructions to his players, ever urging them to move forward, keep the ball and cause trouble to their European opposition
He did not stop at that. He kept on pacing along the sidelines, perhaps pondering moves here, and moves there. Who knows?
Wesley Sneijder, who is known for his impressive goal-scoring record in World Cup knock-out matches, found himself on the receiving end of a brutal tackle
Netherlands' goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was as impressive as he kept cool throughout, here gathering the ball with no much hustle
It was not just Argentina's coach Alejandro Sabella up and about on his feet. His opposite, Netherlands' coach Louis van Gaal appeared to be a busy man as well
The Dutch coach, who takes full charge of English Premier League side Manchester United after the World Cup, put up an animated show behind the sidelines
He took time to dish out instructions to his boys
In the stands, the Netherlands fans, painting their section of The Corinthians Arena a rich orange, waited and waited and waited for that special moment . . . a moment that failed to come inside 90 minutes, with the contest forced into extra time
Argentina's midfielder Enzo Perez tumbles on the wet turf in a struggle for the ball with Netherlands' midfielder Dirk Kuyt
Here, Dutch defender Ron Vlaar tries to keep up with Argentina's forward Gonzalo Higuain
Meanwhile, officials took time to clear the pitch of flowers. Autumn in Brazil or flowers of hope?