World Cup Blog: Krul end to Costa Rican fairytale
PUBLISHED: 08:30 06 July 2014
Quarter-final: Netherlands 0 Costa Rica 0 (4-3 pens)
Substitute keeper Tim Krul helped the Netherlands to a semi-final clash with Argentina by breaking Costa Rican hearts in a penalty shoot-out.
After 120 minutes without a goal in Salvador, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal made the incredible decision to bring off first choice shot-stopper Jasper Cillessen in the dying seconds of extra time.
Yet to touch a ball in this tournament and not known for his penalty saves – a record of two stops from 20 with Newcastle is nothing to brag about – bringing on Krul seemed a massive gamble.
But shoot-outs are more about the mind than anything else, and he did his best to disrupt the Costa Rican flow, walking up to the spot to greet each penalty taker with a few helpful words of encouragement. Sledging is what the cricketers call it.
Ultimately his two saves proved the difference as the Dutch converted all four of their spot-kicks to knock out the South Americans.
But what had been billed as a feast of attacking football largely failed to meet expectations for much of normal time.
The Netherlands enjoyed the lion’s share of possession early on but failed to convert it into goals with Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas almost single-handily keeping his country’s fairytale alive.
The 27-year-old Levante stopper kept out Robin van Persie’s low, driven attempt on 21 minutes, before smothering Wesley Sneijder’s follow-up shot moments later.
Reportedly attracting interest from Arsenal and Liverpool, Navas denied Sneijder again five minutes before the break, punching away a testing 30-yard free-kick.
Costa Rica found their chances limited but Bruno Martins Indi’s foul on Christian Bolanas offered them their first real opportunity to cause an upset on 65 minutes.
Bolanas picked himself up and found Michael Umana from 35 yards out, but the defender fired his header clear of the bar.
Arguably the most threatening player in orange, Sneijder served up the match’s best chance when his curling free-kick rattled the woodwork with eight minutes of the 90 left, beating Navas for the first time.
Two chances fell to van Persie to wrap up the game in stoppage time, but the Costa Rican backline continued to hold out.
Navas punched away the initial shot from the right, but the ball found its way back to the Manchester United talisman with a piercing cross from Daley Blind seconds later.
With the keeper off his line the goal was begging, but this time van Persie was denied by Yeltsin Tejeda, who somehow miskicked his goal-line clearance onto the bar to take the game beyond 90 minutes.
Sneijder came desperately close to stealing it with a minute left of extra time, but the Galatasaray playmaker found the woodwork for the second time, hitting the bar with a delightful shot from wide.
Although the final moments provided plenty of entertainment, the absence of a goal in more than 120 minutes serves as a reminder that there probably isn’t a stand-out team at these championships playing exceptional football.
After thrashing defending champions Spain 5-1 in their opening game three weeks ago, many were tipping van Gaal’s men to set the tournament alight.
But the Netherlands almost fell at the first hurdle in the knock-out stages, requiring a late comeback to see off Mexico in the second round.
Argentina have been criticised for relying too heavily on Lionel Messi plus their lack of goals, scoring just five in their last four games.
Very few have labelled the hosts’ current crop “a great Brazil side”, while Germany have struggled, requiring extra time to beat Algeria in their second round clash.
But such is the weight of expectation on the pre-tournament favourites.
Costa Rica meanwhile will fly home with their heads held high.
Entering the tournament with odds of 2,500/1 of winning, Jorge Luis Pinto’s men were just 90 minutes and two saved penalties away from the final - by far their best performance at a World Cup.