SALVADOR, Brazil — It was supposed to be a formality, but the Netherlands was made to sweat against Costa Rica before eventually overcoming the 2014 World Cup’s surprise package and booking a place in the semifinals Saturday.
Substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul was the hero after saving two penalties to secure a 4-3 shootout victory after this tense, nervous quarterfinal finished goalless.
Incredibly, the Newcastle man was brought on in the 29th minute of extra time with the sole job of denying “Los Ticos” in the penalty shootout.
It earned the Dutch a second consecutive semifinals appearance, having lost to Spain in the title match four years ago.
Now the aim for Louis van Gaal’s men is to go one better than in South Africa.
Standing in their way of another final appearance will be Argentina, which defeated Belgium in the day’s earlier game thanks to an early goal from Gonzalo Higuain.
Wednesday’s clash will be a repeat of the 1978 final, which Argentina won 1-0, and the dramatic 1998 quarterfinal in which the Dutch triumphed thanks to a spectacular Dennis Bergkamp winner.
More to follow….