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Dutch Delight as Netherlands hit semis

Dutch Delight as Netherlands hit semis

Tim Krul was the unlikely hero as Netherlands secured a 4-3 shoot-out win over Costa Rica to book a World Cup semi-final place.

Over 120 goalless minutes in Salvador, Louis van Gaal’s team struck the post or crossbar on three occasions and the Manchester United-bound manager unleashed an unexpected secret weapon from the bench during the dying seconds of extra time.

Krul, who has an unremarkable penalty record at Newcastle United, came on for Jasper Cillessen to save Costa Rica’s second and last penalties from Celso Borges and Michael Umana. Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt were the Netherlands’ flawless foursome.

It ends a remarkable journey for tournament outsiders Costa Rica, who won a group featuring Uruguay, Italy and England before beating Greece on spot-kicks.

But this proved a step too far as the Dutch, who had lost four of their previous five shootouts in major tournaments, banished their demons from 12 yards to book a semi-final appointment with Argentina

Costa Rica combined the organisation and attacking verve that has been their hallmark in Brazil, but ambition going forward left them exposed to Netherlands’ incision on the break and indebted to inspirational goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Jorge Luis Pinto’s team were in confident mood as the game entered its final stages before Sneijder rattled the post from a free-kick to herald a late onslaught.

But Van Persie proved uncharacteristically wasteful in spurning three goalscoring opportunities, including one close-range sitter, as Netherlands failed in their bid to avoid an extra half hour.

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