Netherlands emerged victorious in a dramatic penalty shootout with Costa Rica in Salvador on Saturday to set up a World Cup semi-final clash with Argentina.
Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas kept the Dutch at bay for 120 minutes of excellent action, but the European side held their nerve from 12 yards to win the shootout 4-3. Louis van Gaal's decision to switch his keepers paid off as Tim Krul made vital saves from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana.
Van Gaal set out an attacking formation and his side enjoyed plenty of possession early on in Salvador, but it was not until the 22nd minute that they tested Navas.
A slick passing move from the Oranje opened up the Costa Rica defence and fashioned a chance for Robin van Persie, but Navas dashed off his line to make a fine save.
The danger was not over as the loose ball fell to Wesley Sneijder, but his shot lacked venom and Navas was able to gather. It was an heroic effort from Navas and one that will pay dividends in his career future.
Keylor Navas' price-tag would've rocketed this WC if it wasnt for him having €10m clause in his contract.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) July 5, 2014
Navas was called into action once again in 29 minutes. A brilliant piece of footwork from Van Persie crafted a yard of space for Memphis Depay and he struck the ball crisply, but Navas was able to stick out a boot and make the save.
Set pieces looked the most likely way Costa Rica were going to exploit the Dutch, and they came close to doing just that on 34 minutes.
A deep ball into the box from Christian Bolanos was nodded back across goal for Johnny Acosta who attempted an acrobatic volley which was cleared off the line by the Dutch.
Sneijder is one of the world’s finest dead-ball specialists and he came close to opening the scoring with a wicked 25-yard curling effort, but Navas flung himself to his right to make the save.
Wesley Sneijder mostly invisible in this WC, except on the occasional set-piece when he transforms into 2010 Wesley Sneijder.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 5, 2014
The Dutch’s dominance of possession continued into the second half, but Costa Rica fired a shot across the bows on the hour mark when Junior Diaz galloped away from Dirk Kuyt.
Diaz attempted to pick out Joel Campbell, but the forward was eased off the ball by Bruno Martins Indi, and Costa Rica’s penalty appeals were waved away.
For the second time in the game, a free-kick was almost the undoing of Netherlands, but Ron Vlaar did brilliantly to track back and force Giancarlo Gonzalez to head over the bar.
Sneijder found his way past Navas with another brilliant free-kick with nine minutes remaining, but the post came to the keeper’s rescue and Costa Rica were able to hack the ball to safety.
Navas is superb shot stopper, but high balls are not his forte. That was demonstrated on 84 minutes as the keeper flapped at a cross, only to make a brilliant stop to deny Van Persie who had picked up the loose ball.
That the Dutch did not win the game in normal time is a bit stunning. Van Persie somehow missed his kick with the goal at his mercy in the last minute. And, in injury time, following an almighty goalmouth scramble, Van Persie saw a shot deflected into the woodwork and out to safety.
The collective efforts of Navas and his team-mates took the match into extra time.
The Oranje pretty much camped themselves in the Costa Rica half, but there was a huge moment at the other end in the first half of extra time. Marco Urena tumbled in the box under a challenge from Vlaar, but the referee waved away the appeals.
Sneijder beat Navas once again with a stunning curling strike deep in extra time, but Costa Rica was saved by the goalpost once more.
Costa Rica looked strong in the second half of extra time and Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen made his only save of note in the match when denying Dave Myrie.
It was the keeper’s final action of the game, as Van Gaal decided to take him off and replace him with Newcastle’s Tim Krul for the penalty shootout.
Van Gaal's decision put his reserve keeper in a high-pressure situation and he held his nerve to make saves from Ruiz and Umana to take the Dutch in to the semi-finals.
Krul will take the plaudits, but the Dutch penalty takers were nerveless—with Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Sneijder and Kuyt all scoring.
The Dutch will now have to shift their focus to a semi-final meeting with Argentina. They will be on a huge high following this win, but they will have tired legs to nurse against an Argentina side who came through with relative ease.
|Netherlands Player Ratings|
|Player||1st-half Rating||2nd-half Rating|
|Stefan de Vrij||6||7|
|Bruno Martins Indi||6.5||6.5|
|Robin van Persie||6.5||6.5|
|Klaas Jan Huntelaar||6|
|Costa Rica Player Ratings|
|Player||1st-half Rating||2nd-half Rating|
Louis van Gaal: 'Jasper has done extremely well. There is no question who will be in goal next time, Jasper knows that' (via NOS)— Elko Born (@Elko_B) July 5, 2014