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Romero tells Argentines to savor the moment

By Javier Leira

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero told his compatriots to "enjoy the moment" after saving two penalties in the semi-final shootout win over the Netherlands on Wednesday to send his country into their first World Cup final since 1990.

"Enjoy the moment, we will enjoy it and tomorrow we will start working for the final," he said in a televised interview.

"I feel immense happiness, I'm really happy with everything. (Penalties) are a question of luck, that is the reality. I had confidence in myself and, fortunately, everything turned out well.

"Hope has been intact since day one," he added.

Romero, who was voted man of the match for his shootout heroics, had warm words for both coaches.

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal was the keeper's boss at Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, where he went in 2007, and Van Gaal joked after the match that he had taught Romero how to save penalties.

"I went to the dressing room to thank him (Van Gaal)," Romero told reporters.

"He is someone who helped me a lot when I arrived in Holland, in a completely different country, with different customs, where they spoke a completely different language.

"At the beginning I didn't speak a word, and he spoke Spanish and he helped me a lot. So just as I am grateful to (Argentina coach) Alejandro (Sabella), I am also grateful to Van Gaal for everything he did for me."

BATTERED AND BRUISED

Sabella said it had been a very difficult and tight game.

"I'm very happy because we reached the final and now we will see what we can do," he said. "We will give everything as usual, with humility, work and 100 percent effort."

He voiced concern over having less time to recover for Sunday's final in Rio de Janeiro than opponents Germany, who crushed Brazil 7-1 on Tuesday and were able to rest players in the second half with the result all but secure.

"We could do with a couple more days to rest, but what is important is that we made it to the final," he told a press conference. "Let's see how we handle it.

"Some of players are sore, beaten, tired. It is the result of a 'war' and we will give you the full report as to the casualties tomorrow."

He said he was happy with his team's performance, but singled out midfielder Javier Mascherano who kept out Arjen Robben's effort on goal with a brilliantly timed tackle near the end of normal time with the score at 0-0.

"Mascherano is a symbol," he said. "I would say he is an outstanding player. He is an emblem within our national squad on the field of play as well as off it."

Substitute Sergio Aguero converted a penalty in the shootout.

"It means so many things, a lot of people didn't think that Argentina would be in the final, but we know what a good team we have," he said.

(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White and Brian Homewood, Editing by Nigel Hunt)

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