Netherlands 4 Costa Rica 3 (Penalty shootout): Highlights, key battle and what the result means
Published on Jul 6, 2014 7:44 AM
He featured in less than 30 seconds of the match itself, but Tim Krul proved to be the unlikely hero to end years of suffering from the penalty spot for the Netherlands.
In a tactical masterstroke by coach Louis van Gaal, the Newcastle United goalkeeper was brought on solely for the dreaded shootout against a stubborn Costa Rican outfit. Two top saves later, the 26-year-old led the Oranje to a 4-3 win, setting up a tasty World Cup semi-final clash against Argentina.
In a goal-less match that began dire but ended off dramatic, the Dutch were repeatedly denied by the woodwork and a faultless Keylor Navas in their opponents' goal.
The first half was bereft of creativity and clear-cut chances as Costa Rica defended stoutly with two backs of four. The tie finally came to life as extra-time approached.
A visibly lethargic Robin van Persie - looking nothing like the Flying Dutchman he was in the rout of Spain - fluffed two glit-edged opportunities. First, the Manchester United striker somehow let the ball slip through his legs from Wesley Sneijder's delicious inswinger.
Then, in injury time, van Persie's tame shot was cleared off the line following a mad scramble in the box. Sneijder himself had several long-range attempts that were either stopped by Navas or the crossbar.
Netherlands No. 1 Jasper Cillessen, who was replaced by Krul in the final seconds of extra-time, was rarely tested besides a good parry with his feet late in the game.
But it was Krul who made the decisive saves in the shootout, denying the inconsolable duo of Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana from six yards. Van Gaal now has to decide whether to reward his reserve goalkeeper with a start against Argentina.
Wesley Sneijder vs Celso Borges
Borges' tireless display was best summed up by the fact that Sneijder only threatened from set-pieces. The Dutch playmaker was largely snuffed out in open play, shadowed closely by the AIK Stockholm hard-man who has been one of Costa Rica's breakout stars at the tournament.
Borges marshalled his team's rearguard that stood up well to their opponents' 65 per cent dominance of possession. Besides throwing his body in the way of Sneijer's incisive passes, the 26-year-old was often seen instructing team-mates to maintain the one-unit mentality that frustrated the Dutch.
Man of the Match
While one goalkeeper will make headlines for winning the shootout, the opposing No. 1 should not be forgotten for a superlative 120-minute performance.
Not for the first time, Navas kept Costa Rica alive in a match that could have been lost much earlier. In truth, the Levante custodian has stood out even at a tournament dominated by several men in gloves.
The 27-year-old cut a reassuring figure for his backline, rarely timing a jump or block wrong to claim the ball in his box. His tally of 14 saves made a top marksman like van Persie look skyward with exasperation - Navas can't ask for a better compliment than that.
What the result means
Credit to Costa Rica, a country of five million that reached the final eight in just their fourth World Cup outing. Navas and Co. showed no fear but plenty of heart, and their wins over Italy, Uruguay and Greece will surely go down in football folklore.
After their last-minute dramatics in the Round of 16 against Mexico, there seems to be a touch of destiny surrounding the Dutch. The 2010 finalists are finding ways to win even as van Persie's struggles continue in front of goal.
Van Gaal will need all his tactical nous when Lionel Messi comes calling on Wednesday. If there's anyone who can devise a plan to stop one of the game's greats, it's the Manchester United manager-in-waiting.