Krul ending to Costa Rica’s Brazilian adventure

Netherlands substitute goalkeeper comes off bench to save two penalties in quarter-final shoot-out


Netherlands 0 Costa Rica 0 Netherlands win 4-3 on penalties

Romance departed the World Cup in Brazil on Saturday night but not without a fight in Salvador, where Costa Rica so nearly went further than even they might have imagined but for fate’s cruel hand in a penalty shoot-out.

After a pulsating second half and extra-time yielded everything but a goal, the minnows sought to repeat their spot-kick heroics against Greece with another flawless performance form 12 yards, but Louis van Gaal’s decision to introduce Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul off the bench with seconds remaining proved decisive.

The goalkeeper replaced Jasper Cillesen moments after the starter kept his side in the game, but he was repaid in full when Krul guessed right every time and turned efforts from Bryan Ruiz and then Michael Umana around his post.

It was a masterstroke of cool man-management and came after a game that, in its early stages, looked a formality but it in its dying moments was anyone’s for the taking.

What mattered in the end, however, was that it was the Netherlands who marched onwards to meet Argentina in Wednesday’s semi-final in Sao Paulo.

They dominated the first half, save for rare forays from Joel Campbell and Cristian Gamboa down their right-handside, which were so nearly punished by swift counter-attacks instigated mainly by Arjen Robben.

It quickly became apparent, however, that Keylor Navas was once again to be unbeatable from play, the Costa Rican goalkeeper denying Robin van Persie on a number of occasions before the break, as well as Memphis Depay and Wesley Sneijder, whose free kick was clawed out of the top corner.

After criticism of his theatrics against Mexico, Robben was endeavouring to stay on his feet but Costa Rica ensured, at times, that that wasn’t always possible and the winger was responsible for all four of the yellow cards Costa Rica were shown.

Having rode their luck a little and threatened from one free-kick, in particular, when Cristian Bolanos’s delivery was headed back across goal by Celso Borges for Johnny Acosta to attempt a bicycle kick, the Costa Ricans were happy, if a tad relieved, to reach halftime on level terms.

The second half took no time at all to signal more of the same was to come, with Umana seeing yellow for a crude challenge on Robben immediately after the restart.

As Costa Rica grew in ambition, Campbell was aggrieved on the hour to have been denied a penalty after being over-powered by a risky challenge by Bruno Martins Indi, but stronger claims would follow. Bolanos tried to catch Cillessen off guard with a long range free-kick that ultimately went well wide, and another of his deadball was met by Giancarlo Gonzalez moments later but Ron Vlaar did just enough.

The momentum shift was promptly reversed again when it somewhat surprisingly resulted in the removal of Campbell and introduction of Marcos Urena. The Dutch went on the attack as Jeremain Lens replaced Depay in the 76th minute and rejuvenated their lethargic attack.

Kuyt headed over from a Sneijder free-kick and Lens was quickly introduced to Navas, who denied him too, though the striker was offside when he headed goalwards.

Robben remained the main threat and was hauled down by Gonzalez when racing past the defender and into the box. It was the third yellow card Robben’s pace had brought about. Sneijder’s free-kick from the corner of the box was sublime but cannoned back off the near post.

Robben won another free on the right and Navas again stood in van Persie’s way when the striker turned neatly and shot right-footed from a tight angle. He then failed to convert Sneijder’s cross to the back post when finishing looked a formality, but his night got even more bizarre after Diaz was lucky to escape a second yellow for chopping down Robben at the corner of the box.

Navas punched away Van Persie’s deadball effort but when Kuyt’s low cross back in somehow missed everyone the United man got another chance with the goal gaping, only for Bolanos’s foot to redirect his shot on to the crossbar in the 90th minute.

Navas was his usual self in extra-time, deflecting away a header from Vlaar, whose clumsy tackle on Urena at the other end was very generously waved away by referee Ravshan Irmatov.

Robben continued to terrorise down the right with superhuman energy, winning a succession of frees that ultimately reaped no reward, while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s first contribution of note, after he replaced Martins Indi, was to earn a yellow card for a high forearm on Navas.

Costa Rica weren’t grimly hanging on, however, Urena and Bolanos threatened to pick holes on a few occasions as penalties loomed, a shot from the latter winning their first corner 115 minutes in and then a break from the former resulting in Cillessen’s best save of the night from point-blank range and his last meaningful contribution.

Navas finally looked beaten when Sneijder curled an effort in the direction of the top corner, only for the woodwork to deny him again.

The last roll of the dice for Louis van Gaal was to introduce Krul for the imminent penalty shootout and, boy, did he deliver, with a little help from van Persie, Robben, Sneijder and Kuyt.

NETHERLANDS (v Costa Rica): 1 Jasper Cillessen (Krul 120’); 3 Stefan de Vrij, 2 Ron Vlaar, 4 Bruno Martins Indi (Huntelaar 105’); 15 Dirk Kuyt, 20 Georginio Wijnaldum, 10 Wesley Sneijder, 5 Daley Blind; 11 Arjen Robben, 9 Robin van Persie, 21 Memphis Depay (Lens 76’).

Yellow cards: Martins Indi, Huntelaar

COSTA RICA (v Netherlands): 1-Keylor Navas; 16-Cristian Gamboa (Myrie 79’), 2-Johnny Acosta, 3-Giancarlo Gonzalez, 4-Michael Umana, 15-Junior Diaz; 17-Yeltsin Tejeda (Cubero 97’), 5-Celso Borges; 10-Bryan Ruiz, 9-Joel Campbell (Urena 66’), 7-Christian Bolanos.

Yellow cards: Diaz, Umana, Gonzalez, Acosta

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