Friday, February 23, 2018

Krul saves send Dutch into semis


CRUCIAL SAVE: Netherlands goalkeeper Tim Krul saves a penalty from Costa Rica’s Bryan Ruiz in a penalty shoot out during the World Cup quarter-final match against Costa Rica at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, yesterday. —Photo: AP

Mark Fraser

 The Netherlands beat Costa Rica 4-3 in a penalty shootout yesterday after 120 goalless minutes to reach the World Cup semi-finals. Goalkeeper Tim Krul—brought on by Louis van Gaal for the spot-kicks finale—saved from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to put the Dutch through. They now face Argentina in the second semi-final in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.

Van Gaal made two changes to the Dutch side that began the 2-1 round-of-16 win over Mexico. With Nigel de Jong ruled out of the rest of the tournament having sustained a groin injury last Sunday, Wesley Sneijder took up a more central role as Daley Blind played wide on the left and Bruno Martins Indi returned to the rearguard. Paul Verhaegh dropped to the bench to allow Dirk Kuyt to switch to the right flank and Memphis Depay to come in as a left-sided forward.

Costa Rica were without centre-back Oscar Duarte after his red card against Greece last weekend, with Johnny Acosta replacing him in Jorge Luis Pinto’s only change. The Netherlands had the best of the first-half chances, but Ticos goalkeeper Keylor Navas impressively saved efforts from Robin van Persie, Sneijder and Depay.

After the break, the Central Americans continued to frustrate the Dutch and Sneijder was left to curse his bad luck when he hit the post with an 82nd-minute free-kick. Van Persie missed a gilt-edged chance soon after and in the dying moments of normal time, Yeltsin Tejeda somehow managed to clear the striker’s shot off the line after a penalty area scramble.

Van Gaal threw on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the second half of extra-time—during which Costa Rica won their only corner of the entire match—but there was still no way past Navas. There was still a chance for Ticos substitute Marco Urena to win it but Jasper Cillessen denied him, and then Sneijder rattled the woodwork once again at the other end.

Van Gaal chose to replace Cillessen with Newcastle shot-stopper Krul for the shootout. Celso Borges and then van Persie both coolly slid home the first two spot-kicks, but Krul dived to his left to deny Ruiz which allowed Arjen Robben to give Holland the advantage.

Giancarlo Gonzalez and Sneijder hit the target, with Christian Bolanos and Kuyt following suit. But Umana, who scored the crucial penalty against Greece in the last round, was also denied by a Krul save, thus sending the Dutch through.