Netherlands win 4-3 on penalties
Keylor Navas was the star of the show, making a string of saves keeping the Dutch at bay in a groundhog day type match for the Oranje. However, Tim Krul proved to steal the headlines after another ballsy move from Louis van Gaal paid off, and the Dutch will face Argentina next Wednesday in the semi-finals.
With a versatile squad at his disposal, Louis van Gaal again rang the changes as Oranje lined up to play the Costa Ricans tonight. We saw the return of Bruno Martins Indi for the first time since suffering a concussion against Australia in the group stages. Young PSV prodigy Memphis Depay joined the starting line-up as Dirk Kuyt moved into right-wing back with Daley Blind sitting on the left.
Although the Dutch enjoyed the majority of the possession early on, they failed to break down the hard-working Costa Rica. Jorge Luis Pinto noticed this and made a tweak, pushing Joel Campbell out to the right to use his pace in defence and stop the Dutch attacks down that side as team captain Bryan Ruiz, trudges over to the centre.
We had to wait until 22 minutes of play to see the first real chance, and it was a lovely move from Van Gaal’s men. Kuyt received the ball high up on the right wing and subsequently slotted in Depay on the edge of the area. The PSV winger unselfishly laid the ball into Robin van Persie who blasted towards goal. One of the contender for ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ Keylor Navas, parried the shot away into the path of Wesley Sneijder, who drove a low shot which the Costa Rican stopper again halted from entering the net.
Just before the half-hour mark, the in-form Navas was called into action again. Bryan Ruiz was forced into a mistake by Stefan de Vrij and in turn lost to the ball to Van Persie. The Manchester United striker surged forward and dished out to a sprinting Depay cutting in from the left. Unfortunately for youngster, his early low drive at goal was stopped by the Levante keeper’s feet.
Navas has a release clause in his contract of €8m and has been linked with Monaco, Atletico Madrid among others and once again was denying Holland on 38 minutes. After Junior Diaz have picked up a booking for pulling back Arjen Robben, Sneijder took the resulting free-kick from around 30 yards out. The Galatasaray man hit the shot perfectly but the agile Navas leapt across the goal to palm in it out for a corner, and made sure that the sides went into half-time goal less.
After a cautious beginning to the second-half, the Costa Ricans started to get into the game. Always looking good from set-pieces, Costa Rica had a great chance to take the lead just after the hour mark. Giancarlo González headed over a wonderful whipping deep ball from a Christian Bolaños free-kick. In a similar move ten minutes later, Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar nodded over a Wesley Sneijder cross at the opposite end.
The Costa Ricans were frustrating Van Gaal’s men and trying to counter attack when they could and Holland lacked urgency needed for a World Cup quarter final. The Dutch were finding it harder and harder as the clock ran down to break open the Navas’ defence. Navas was finally beaten on 83 minutes but he was saved by the post. After Gonzalez tugged on Robben’s shirt on the edge of the box, Sneijder’s resultant free-kick smashed off the post.
Around half a minute later, Navas stopped a great Van Persie effort to send the neutrals inside the jam-packed Arena Fonte Nova into raptures, cheering on every save the Levante man made.
With a few minutes to go, in an unusual moment, Van Persie miss kicked an excellent ball from Sneijder to flabbergast the crowd. The ball was put on a plate for the Man United forward just two yards out, it was a poor miss for a man of his quality.
After that shock, the fans were left in more disbelief deep into stoppage time. After a RVP free-kick was comfortably punched away by Navas, the ball fell to Daley Blind on the left wing. He fired a low ball across the front of goal which everyone missed but fell perfectly for Van Persie again at the back post. Van Persie blasted a shot at goal and somehow it was flicked up onto the bar by Yeltsin Tejeda.
Usual play resumed once extra time began as Navas saved a Ron Vlaar power header at goal from a corner. Minutes later, the underdogs had a weak penalty shout as Marco Ureña was protesting that Vlaar had fouled him in the area, however, Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov waved away appeals.
After Sneijder rattled the crossbar, the clock wore down and the inevitable was happening, the dreaded penalty shootout. With this in mind, Van Gaal then pulled a massive call out of the bag as the new Manchester United boss as subbed goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for Newcastle United’s Tim Krul in the final moments of extra time.
There was a reason why…
Krul guessed the right way for every penalty and saved Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umaña’s efforts as Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder and Kuyt dispatched their shots to clinch the semi-final slot.
It was a massive move by Van Gaal and our English readers better get used to it. Van Gaal is going to be the new Manchester United manager and he does not care who he upsets to get the success he so dearly wants. Every gamble this World Cup has come off so far, he’s on a roll.
NETHERLANDS: Cillessen (Krul 120), De Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi (Huntelaar 106), Kuyt, Blind, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Depay (Lens 76), Van Persie, Robben.
BOOKINGS: Martins Indi 64, Huntelaar 110.
COSTA RICA: Navas, Acosta, Gonzalez, Umana, Borges, Bolanos, Diaz, Gamboa (Myrie 79), Tejeda (Cubero 97), Ruiz, Campbell (Ureña 66).
BOOKINGS: Diaz 38, Umana 52, Gonzalez 81.
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