Louis van Gaal insists Netherlands always intended to use Tim Krul in penalty shootout

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Netherlands beat Costa Rica 4-3 in a penalty shootout on Saturday, eliminating the Ticos from the World Cup. And although Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been hailed as one of the stars of the tournament, it was Dutch ‘keeper Tim Krul that had tongues wagging.

Both Holland and Costa Rica had chances late in added time: Jasper Cillessen did well to deny Michael Marco Ureña, while Wesley Sneijder’s shot hit the woodwork. Then, with penalties a near-certaintly, Louis van Gaal made a bold move, withdrawing Cillessen in favor of Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul.

It was Krul’s first action of the tournament, with van Gaal preferring the 25-year-old Ajax shotstopper as his number 1. The decision paid off, however. Krul saved Bryan Ruiz’s strike, Costa Rica’s first of the night, then went on to deny Michael Umaña with a dive to his left. Costa Rica were out.

The decision wasn’t made on a whim, of course. The manager – who just pushed back his start date at Manchester United with this bit of maneuvering – explained:

We thought it through. Every player has certain skills and qualities and they don’t always coincide. We felt Tim would be the most appropriate keeper to save penalties. You would have seen that Tim dived to the right corner twice. We’re a tiny bit proud this trick has helped us through.

Krul was chosen due to his “longer reach and a better track record with penalties” than Cillessen, who was not let in on the plan. Perhaps it was Krul’s preparation, perhaps it was a matter of mind games, perhaps a bit of both. That the trick worked is what is important to van Gaal. Netherlands now have the chance to make the final for the second consecutive World Cup.

EURO 2016: Spain, Switzerland earn qualification

<> on October 9, 2015 in Logrono, Spain.
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Catch up on all of Friday’s EURO qualification action, as two more teams have booked a ticket to France.

Spain 4-0 Luxembourg

Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla hadn’t scored a competitive goal for Spain in more than six years, but he scored twice today to help earn his country a berth in EURO 2016. Cazorla and Paco Alcacer scored all four goals for the Spanish, while Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas became Spain’s all-time leader in assists. However, both David Silva of Manchester City and Alvaro Morata of Juventus were forced off with injuries, with Morata’s looking to be serious.

Switzerland 7-0 San Marino

Switzerland led just 1-0 at halftime, but a six-goal second half which included three penalty kicks means the Swiss have secured qualification from Group E for EURO 2016. As expected, Switzerland dominated every aspect of the match against minnows San Marino, and Vladimir Petkovic’s side had seven different goalscorers.

[ MORE: Thursday’s EURO 2016 roundup — Northern Ireland qualify ]

England 2-0 Estonia

England remained perfect in Group E, taking their ninth win from nine matches today at Wembley. Theo Walcott‘s great scoring form from Arsenal carried over to the national side, opening the scoring just before halftime. In the second half, Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy came on as a substitute and assisted to Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, who made it 2-0. With a few minutes to play, Tottenham teenager Dele Alli got a short run in his England debut.

Elsewhere in EURO qualifying

Group C

Macedonia 0-2 Ukraine
Slovakia 0-1 Belarus

Group E

Slovenia 1-1 Lithuania

Group G

Liechtenstein 0-2 Sweden
Moldova 1-2 Russia
Montenegro 2-3 Austria

Sergio Aguero expects to miss a month with hamstring injury

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After scoring five goals against Newcastle United, Sergio Aguero may have to wait a bit of time to get back to scoring in the Premier League.

The Manchester City striker lasted just 25 minutes in Argentina’s World Cup qualifier on Thursday, as he was stretchered off with a hamstring injury. 

Aguero underwent testing in Argentina, and told the local media “I think I’m going to be out for a month.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Manchester City and Argentina teammate Nicolas Otamendi said Aguero was in tears in the dressing room, and some reports have penned the injury as a torn hamstring.

If Aguero were to be ruled out for a month, he would miss City’s Champions League clash vs. Sevilla, as well as the massive Manchester derby away at United on October 25.

To make matters worse for City supporters, David Silva was forced off after just ten minutes while playing for Spain today. Silva took a harsh challenge from behind, and hobbled off with what looked to be an ankle injury. If Silva’s injury ends up being more than just a knock, City could be without their two most important players in the attack.