Substitute Krul the savior as Dutch reach semis
SALVADOR, Brazil - Netherlands keeper Tim Krul made a dramatic entrance off the bench to save two penalties in a 4-3 shootout win over Costa Rica on Saturday, following a 0-0 draw after extra time, to send the Dutch into a World Cup semi-final with Argentina.
Surprise package Costa Rica, with man-of-the-match Keylor Navas in goal, held out for 120 minutes against a dominant Netherlands team who hit the woodwork three times - twice late in normal time and again in the frenetic extra time period.
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal took the unusual step of sending Krul on to replace first-choice stopper Jasper Cillessen just for the penalties as his frustrated side sought to improve on their record of one victory in five previous shootouts in major tournaments.
The towering Krul twice dived low to his left to thwart efforts from Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana while the Dutch converted all four of their penalties to set up a mouth-watering last-four clash with Argentina on Wednesday.
"The sub (Krul) was terrific, if you see something like that, it deserves credit," said Dutch striker Robin van Persie. "We know Tim Krul is great at stopping penalties."
Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto noted his team left the tournament unbeaten in normal play and praised keeper Navas who thwarted the Dutch time and time again to keep the scores level.
"We have a brilliant, spectacular goalkeeper. What we did on the pitch, what we showed to the world, I think that is crucial. We are not a big power but we demonstrated things, we are leaving very proud," he said.
Returning to the scene of their opening match 5-1 mauling of title holders Spain, the Dutch were a world away from that rampant display in a slow first half, although they still looked the more likely of the two sides to score.
Probing at Costa Rica, their first chance came after 21 minutes when Van Persie was slipped in only to see his low, angled shot parried away by Navas, who again similarly denied Memphis Depay minutes later.
Navas, a hero in Costa Rica's last 16 penalty shootout win over Greece, was again in fine form, tipping wide a curling 25 metre Sneijder free kick after 39 minutes.
It was easy to see why Costa Rica's disciplined defence had conceded just twice in Brazil, and a Dutch side that started the match as the tournament's top scorers, having rattled in 12 goals, were stumped for long periods after the interval, finally producing a late flurry as extra time loomed.
A Sneijder free kick struck the post in the 82nd minute and, after Navas kept out Van Persie's low drive soon after, the Dutch captain was again thwarted in the dying seconds when his drive was diverted off the line and on to the bar by the knee of Costa Rica midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda.
Extra time was played out with end to end breaks, the Costa Ricans looking dangerous for the first time in the match with Cillessen saving well from Umana before Sneijder thundered a curling effort against the crossbar.
In the end only penalties could separate the two sides with three-time runners-up the Netherlands now left to prepare for a tough semi-final against Argentina in Sao Paulo next week. (Editing by Nigel Hunt)