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.