Saturday, July 5, 2014 11:59 pm
Netherlands have qualified for the World Cup semi-finals after overcoming a resolute Costa Rica side in a nervy match settled with penalty kicks at the end of 120 goalless minutes.
The decisive moment came with a minute left in extra-time when Dutch coach Louis van Gaal brought on reserve goalkeeper Tim Krul for Jasper Cillessen with penalties in mind.
The Newcastle United goalkeeper went on to repay his coach’s faith by saving two spot kicks as the Netherlands came away 4-3 winners to set up a semi-final clash against Argentina.
It was cruel on the Costa Ricans but undoubtedly a result well deserved by the Dutch that dominated the entire match and should have won in normal time and extra-time as well only to be denied by a combination of man of the match Keylor Navas and the woodwork.
Following a cagey opening, Costa Rica keeper Navas was called into action midway through the first half as he denied Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder on the rebound.
Navas would keep scores goalless in the 28th minute as Memphis Depay’s effort came off the Levante man’s ankle while Sneijder would see a freekick pushed over by Navas 10 minutes later.
With three minutes to half time, Arjen Robben, who troubled the Costa Rican defence all night with his pace, laid a good ball to put van Persie through on goal but Navas was quick off his line to frustrate another Dutch attack.
The trend continued in the second half as Netherlands barraged the Costa Rican area to no avail as astute defending and heroic goalkeeping from the Central Americans kept the match goalless.
Late drama however ensued in the closing 10 minutes with a Sneijder freekick coming off the post and a van Persie freekick pushed out by Navas.
Van Persie would then fail to get a touch right in front of goal from a Sneijder cross in and also see a shot deflected onto the crossbar two minutes into stoppage time.
Ron Vlaar was next to be denied by Navas who pushed the Dutch defender’s firm header away for a cornerkick four minutes into extra-time as Netherlands desperately searched for the winner.
Costa Rica would however come close to breaking the deadlock against the run of play in the second period of extra-time, when Marco Urena made some space for himself in the Dutch area and shot on goal but was denied by Cillessen.
That proved the Ajax keeper’s last contribution in the match as he was replaced by Krul, though Sneijder could have won it at the death only to be denied by the woodwork yet again.
The Dutch had never won a penalty shootout in World Cup history but successful spot kicks by van Persie, Robben, Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt had Netherlands on course.
And Krul ensured that record would be ended by saving the spot kicks of Bryan Ruiz and crucially from Michael Umana to justify a bold tactical change by van Gaal and send Netherlands through to the last four.