NETHERLANDS 0, COSTA RICA 0, 4-3 DUTCH IN PENALTY SHOOTOUT
SALVADOR, Brazil — Louis van Gaal made the call, and Tim Krul made the saves.
In another move that will only add to his reputation as a tactical mastermind, the Netherlands coach led his team into the World Cup semifinals after bringing on Krul with seconds remaining in extra time.
Moments later, Krul saved two penalties in a 4-3 shootout victory over Costa Rica, making the Manchester United-bound Van Gaal again look like a football genius.
“It worked out,” Van Gaal said Saturday after his team played Costa Rica to a 0-0 draw through extra time. “That was beautiful. I’m a bit proud of that.”
Jasper Cillessen had started in goal for the Dutch team, but Van Gaal made the decision to pull him after 120 minutes of scoreless football and replace him with Krul.
The Newcastle goalkeeper, who really only touched the ball twice all game, saved the second and fifth penalties, and guessed the correct way on all five.
“We thought it all through,” Van Gaal said. “We all thought that Tim Krul was the best keeper to stop penalties. He is taller and has a longer reach. We prepared for the Costa Rica penalties just as we prepared for our own penalties.”
In the semifinals, the Netherlands will face Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
Although Krul made the decisive stops in the shootout, it was Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas that was the star of the match.
Navas made a string of saves to keep the attacking Dutch scoreless for 90 minutes of regulation time and 30 minutes of extra time.
His night, however, will forever be overshadowed by Krul, and by Van Gaal.
“I never saw something like that,” Costa Rica midfielder Celso Borges said of the goalkeeping change. “But they were right, he did his job.”
Van Gaal has made several inspired changes at this year’s World Cup in the team’s five straight wins. He brought on Klaas Jan Huntelaar against Mexico and the Schalke striker had an assist and scored a stoppage-time penalty to win 2-1.
Against Chile, midfielder Leroy Fer scored within a minute of coming on to break a 0-0 deadlock. Another substitute, Memphis Depay, scored the second in the 2-0 victory.
On Saturday, Navas had kept his team in the match with some excellent saves. And 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 then 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.
“Of course you want to stop the penalty,” Navas said. “But they shot better and I could not stop them.”
Navas couldn’t, but Krul could.
“Tim stopped two penalties,” Van Gaal said, “and it doesn’t get better than that.”
ARGENTINA 1, BELGIUM 0
BRASILIA, Brazil — Argentina reached the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 24 years after striker Gonzalo Higuain scored his first goal of the tournament against Belgium.
Argentina controlled the match after Higuain’s eighth-minute goal, more due to disciplined defending than sparkling attack.
The Napoli striker fired home Angel Di Maria’s deflected pass just inside the area, beating Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a low shot to the far corner of the goal as he turned.
“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 close to making it 2-0 in the second half when his shot smashed into the crossbar. Lionel Messi missed a chance to score his fifth goal of the tournament when he failed to beat Courtois on a counterattack in stoppage time.
Belgium’s most creative player, Eden Hazard, had little impact on the game beyond receiving a yellow card for a studs-first challenge on Lucas Biglia. Hazard was substituted by Nacer Chadli in the 75th.
Argentina has won every match in Brazil by a single goal. In previous games, it scraped by thanks to individual moments of magic by Messi. But against Belgium, Argentina looked in control even after losing Di Maria — the team’s most influential player in Brazil aside from Messi — to a right thigh injury in the 33rd minute.
Sabella said the Real Madrid midfielder will have medical tests on Sunday to discover the extent of the injury.
It was Di Maria who set up Higuain’s goal as he picked up a pass from Messi and cut in from the right. He tried to find fullback Pablo Zabaleta, but the ball bounced off Jan Vertonghen into Higuain’s path.
Startled by the early goal, the Red Devils didn’t create any heat in Argentina’s penalty area until the 42nd minute when Mirallas headed Vertonghen’s cross just wide of Sergio Romero’s right post.
Fifteen minutes after the break, Vertonghen once again sent in a precise cross from the left flank but Fellani headed it over the crossbar.
Higuain came close to making it 2-0 in the second half when he easily ran past Vincent Kompany and smashed a shot into the crossbar. He worked relentlessly for Argentina before being substituted in the 81st by Fernando Gago.
“We still have two matches to go so we can have the dream, the dream that brought us here from the very first day,” Higuain said.
BRAZIL 2, COLOMBIA 1
FORTALEZA, Brazil — Brazil advanced to the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 12 years with a 2-1 win over Colombia on Friday, with goals from defenders Thiago Silva and David Luiz keeping the host country in contention.
Brazil, which had been eliminated in the quarterfinals at the last two World Cups, will next play Germany on Tuesday.
Silva gave Brazil the lead in the seventh minute, scoring with his left knee after a corner from Neymar. Luiz added the second from a free kick in the 69th, sending a swerving long-range shot into the top of the net.
Colombia pulled one back in the 80th when striker James Rodriguez scored his tournament-leading sixth goal from the penalty spot.
Rodriguez tried to control the pace for Colombia, but it was Brazil which created most of the scoring chances. Goalkeeper David Ospina had to make a series of saves in the first half alone. Colombia tried to pressure in the end after Rodriguez’s penalty, but Brazil held on with tough defending.
The Brazilian fans in the crowd of 60,342 cheered in relief at the final whistle at the Arena Castelao in Fortaleza, although there was concern over Neymar’s health after the young striker was carried from the field late in the game after a knock to the back.
In another setback for Brazil, Silva received his second yellow card of the tournament in the 64th minute after trying to keep Ospina from putting the ball back in play, and will miss the match against Germany.
Brazil, which hadn’t made it to the semis since it won its fifth world title in South Korea and Japan, is trying to become the first host to win the World Cup since France did it in 1998.
GERMANY 1, FRANCE 0
RIO DE JANEIRO — Mats Hummels’ first-half header was enough for Germany to beat France and seal a spot in the semifinals for the fourth straight World Cup.
The center back settled a cagey match in muggy conditions at Maracana Stadium with his 13th-minute goal, meeting a perfectly-placed free kick and glancing a header in off the underside of the crossbar.
Criticized for its poor defending in earlier matches, Germany selected a more robust team and restricted France to only a handful of clear-cut opportunities.
The young French squad were not given many chances to impose the kind of attacking game that made them one of the most exciting lineups in the group stage, although Karim Benzema could have sent the game into extra time with an opportunity in stoppage time. Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer swatted the angled shot away.
“There was not much in it,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “We don’t have the international experience Germany has.”
Germany captain Philipp Lahm returned to right back in one of a string of tactically astute changes made by coach Joachim Loew following the sloppy second-round win over Algeria, and the reshuffle made a difference.
“We played like a team again,” he said
In Loew’s eight-year tenure, Germany has reached the last four in every major tournament it has played — but remains without a title since winning the European Championships in 1996.
While France’s young players slumped to the ground and some shed tears after the final whistle, the Germans soberly saluted all corners of the Maracana Stadium.
One job done, nothing more.
And next up for Germany is a meeting with host nation Brazil, which beat Colombia 2-1 later Friday. It will be Germany’s 13th appearance in the semifinals in 20 editions of the World Cup.
“I guess we’re playing the kind of football which will give us a chance to win,” said Hummels, who produced a couple of decisive blocks to snuff out two good chances for France striker Karim Benzema.
“We defended well today . I think we deserve to carry on.”
France struggled to impose the kind of attacking game that made the team one of the most exciting in Brazil during the group stage, although Benzema — the team’s chief attacking threat — squandered chances in both halves.