The Netherlands defeated Costa Rica after 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, but the drama hit a climax following a goalie switch before the penalty shootout ensued. Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal decided to switch Jasper Cillessen with Newcastle keeper Tim Krul, who is two inches taller.
After his team won the shootout 4-3, Van Gaal's substitution will go down as one of the gutsiest coaching decisions in World Cup history. After another superb performance, unfortunately in defeat, Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas solidified himself as the best goalie of the World Cup.
Both teams were unsuccessful in their attempts to score a goal in regulation and extra time. Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben created numerous chances for the Oranje, but Navas, and a little assistance from the post, denied the Dutch an opportunity to end the game. Navas saved seven shots and kept the Costa Rican defense stout throughout the match.
The 27-year-old tallied a total of 21 saves with only two goals allowed in the tournament.
Just as the end of the second half of extra time came to an end, Van Gaal made the bold decision. It was the first time a goalie was subbed in the World Cup solely for penalty kicks. Krul, no penalty-kick master in any sense, saved a mere two of 20 penalties for his club team.
Wonderful performances by Guillermo Ochoa and Tim Howard cannot be overlooked, but I believe Navas was the superior keeper throughout the World Cup. Many on Twitter felt the same. His 21 saves were fourth-best among World Cup keepers. He also played more minutes than any other goalie.
Krul's 6'4" frame may have saved two Costa Rican shots to send his country to the semifinals, but he also employed the art of trash-talking. Cameras showed Krul giving demonstrative words of discouragement to the Costa Rican free-kick takers before their shots.
Perhaps Krul is a fan of legendary NBA trash-talkers such as Larry Bird, Reggie Miller or Michael Jordan. He definitely shares their ability to come up big in the clutch while talking smack.
Van Gaal, recently hired by Manchester United, made the gutsiest decision in World Cup history. He put the fate of his country in the hands of his backup goalkeeper.
Imagine the headlines if Costa Rica had won the match. Van Gaal made a decision that no other manager before him has, and his side will now face Argentina for an opportunity to return to the World Cup final and capture the first title for the Oranje.
Although his side lost, Keylor Navas was voted Man of the Match by FIFA officials. After besting a crowded field of excellent keepers, his services will be highly sought after in the club levels.
Van Gaal will surely have enormous support from Manchester United fans after their future manager has taken his club to the semifinals after an incredibly bold coaching decision.
Unless the Netherlands find themselves in another penalty shootout, Krul will not see the field again the rest of the tournament. Regardless, he has as large a fingerprint on their World Cup campaign as any other teammate or coach. Krul made history in Brazil on Saturday, and that can never be taken from him.