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[World Cup] The fantastic four

The Netherlands and Argentina grab final two semifinal places

By Korea Herald

Published : July 6, 2014 - 20:32

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The Dutch team celebrates after beating Costa Rica at the World Cup on Saturday. (AP-Yonhap) The Dutch team celebrates after beating Costa Rica at the World Cup on Saturday. (AP-Yonhap)
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) ― Tim Krul came on as a substitute in the final minute of extra time and then saved two penalties in a 4-3 shootout victory over Costa Rica on Saturday, giving the Netherlands a spot in the World Cup semifinals.

Krul saved spot kicks from Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana after the match had finished 0-0.

“We had a lot of chances but it didn’t go in,” Krul said on Dutch television. “Then I come in, stop two penalties and here we are.”

In another stroke of tactical genius at this year’s World Cup, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal pulled Jasper Cillessen moments after the Ajax goalkeeper had saved a shot from Marcos Urena in extra time.

“The trick is good,” said Krul, who plays for Newcastle. “A lot of preparation went into it.”

The Dutch team will next face Argentina in the semifinals on Wednesday in Sao Paulo.

Krul looked super confident during the shootout at the Arena Fonte Nova, saving the second and fifth penalties by diving to his left and sticking out his hand.

When Krul stopped Ruiz’s penalty, Cillessen, watching from the sideline, punched the air in celebration.

When he saved the second to win the match, Cillessen out-sprinted the rest of the bench to get to Krul, who was already being mobbed by jubilant teammates who had watched from the halfway line.

Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas had kept his team in the match with a string of great saves in the first half and again in extra time. When Wesley Sneijder twice beat him late in regulation and again in the second half of extra time, the woodwork made the stop.

Sneijder hit the post with a free kick in the 80th minute and sent a curling shot over Navas and off the crossbar before the penalty shootout.

At the end, however, Navas could not stop any of the four Dutch penalties as veterans Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt all scored. 

Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain scores against Belgium at the World Cup on Saturday. (AFP-Yonhap) Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain scores against Belgium at the World Cup on Saturday. (AFP-Yonhap)

Argentina 1, Belgium 0

BRASILIA (AP) ― For once Lionel Messi didn’t carry Argentina on his shoulders.

He didn’t have to.

Gonzalo Higuain ended a four-game scoreless streak with an early winner as Argentina beat Belgium 1-0 and reached a World Cup semifinal match for the first time since 1990.

“Since the first game of this World Cup I said I was calm, that the goals would come. It came and at an important moment,” Higuain said. “It’s been so many years since we made it to the semifinals. Now we did.”

Higuain came into the World Cup still recovering from an ankle injury that had sidelined him since early May. The 26-year-old Napoli striker looked out-of-form in the group stage and wasn’t giving Argentina the edge it needed in the penalty area.

That changed in the eighth minute of the game in Brasilia, as he picked up a deflected pass from Angel Di Maria just inside the area and beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a half-volley toward the far post.

“Higuain has the class to put the ball where he wants it. There is nothing we could do about it,” Courtois said.

A poor consolation for the Belgium goalkeeper was that he once again kept Messi from scoring, as he had done in seven straight matches at club level.

The Argentina captain missed a chance to get his fifth goal of the tournament when he failed to beat Courtois in stoppage time.

Argentina’s next opponent will be the Netherlands.

Buoyed by the melodic chants of its fans, Argentina protected its lead thanks to a near-flawless defensive line, bolstered by strong performances from central midfielders Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia.

Belgium lacked the imagination to find a way into the final third of the pitch, and created few clear chances apart from a pair of headers by Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini.