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Argentina through as group winners
Riquelme, left, and Sneijder battle it out during the goalless draw.


FRANKFURT, Germany -- World Cup heavyweights Argentina and Netherlands cancelled each other out in a 0-0 Group C draw in Frankfurt on Wednesday.

The Argentines finished top on goal difference and will meet Mexico in Leipzig in the second round on Saturday. The Dutch face Portugal in Nuremberg on Sunday.

A tight, tactical battle only sprung to life on isolated occasions, mainly when Argentina threatened to score, having created the more chances.

After the teams had weighed each other up for the opening quarter of an hour, the first shot on target came from the Dutch.

An error by right back Nicolas Burdisso allowed winger Dirk Kuijt to force a leaping save from keeper Roberto Abbondanzieri.

Minutes later, Argentina strung together a long passing movement which ended with Carlos Tevez shooting narrowly wide of Edwin van der Sar's right-hand post.

The keeper, equalling the Dutch caps record of 112 held by Frank de Boer, had to act sharply to turn over Juan Roman Riquelme's inswinging corner.

Tevez then chased a low Riquelme free kick to the near post, forcing a quick intervention from defender Khalid Boulahrouz whose attempted clearance came back off the post.

With Argentina being forced back in the latter stages of the first half, Maxi Rodriguez had a shot from outside the box that shaved the diving Van der Sar's right-hand post.

Argentine teenager Lionel Messi, making his first start in the finals, was restricted by close Dutch marking but got in a shot in first-half stoppage time that went straight to Van der Sar.

Messi tried to spark the attack immediately after the interval but continued to be well shackled by the defense.

Diving save

Tevez, with Riquelme prompting from midfield, provided the danger and brought a diving save from Van der Sar in the 73rd minute.

Rodriguez had another attempt at a long-range shot while Tevez shot over near the end.

Marco van Basten's Dutch substitutions brought added urgency to his team's attacks and a spate of corners in the final minutes.

"Argentina put us in a corner several times and that's when we had it tough," said Van Basten. "In the second half we became a bit more dominant.

"Our organization was good. If we can bring a bit more footballing quality, it may be time for us to start winning."

Midfielder Philip Cocu made his 100th appearance for Netherlands.

Dutch captain Edwin van der Sar was disappointed his side failed to clinch top spot.

"I'm not really satisfied. We wanted to win the group but I think Argentina made it quite difficult for us," the goalkeeper told reporters.

"In the second half we came into the game a bit more and had some half chances. I'm happy I kept a clean sheet and played my 112th match for Holland and equalled the record."

Van der Sar matched Frank de Boer's record of Dutch appearances.

"We tried everything but we couldn't take any risks with players on yellow cards. In this tournament with referees you never know what you're going to get," said Van der Sar.

Argentina defender Roberto Ayala was in positive mood.

"The aim has been achieved. The team is growing game by game," he said.

"It made no difference (whether we play Mexico or Portugal). They are both rivals to be much respected."

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