By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Holland will face Argentina in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-finals after edging past Costa Rica at the Arena Fonte Nova this evening (July 5th). With the tie finishing goalless after extra-time, Holland won the penalty shoot-out 4-3 to book their place in the final four.
The Dutch were deserved winners. They had dominated the game against the Central Americans, Arjen Robben in particular causing problems throughout the contest.
Holland coach Louis van Gaal had sent on substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul specifically for the shoot-out. The ploy paid off, with the Newcastle United stopper saving two spot kicks to help the side progress.
Robin van Persie, Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt all netted from the spot. The celebrations at the end showed the massive relief of tension after they failed to break down a well organized but ultimately limited Costa Rican outfit.
As Holland threatened increasingly as their opponents tired Sneijder twice hit the framework of the goal. Robben toyed with his marker like cat playing with a trapped mouse. If there was one weak spot for the Europeans it was in front of goal. Van Persie, who was substituted against Mexico last week, again failed to find full sharpness in front of goal.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas was in inspired form and has arguably been the goalkeeper of the tournament. He made a magnificent save from van Persie when the Manchester United striker was clean through and continually kept his team in the tie. He also saved efforts from Sneijder and Memphis Depay as Holland took control of the first half.
Costa Rica’s game plan was to sit back and try to hit Holland on the counter-attack, but they spent large parts of the match camped in their own half. With the game headed towards extra-time van Persie thought he had won it for the Dutch right at the death, but his shot was cleared off the goal line by Yeltsin Tejeda, who somehow managed to deflect the ball up onto the bar.
Marcos Urena had Costa Rica’s best effort of the additional 30 minutes but Sneijder responded by curling a vicious shot against the upright. It went down to penalties, and Holland, after such a stellar show, prevailed.
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