Football

Netherlands see off Costa Rica to reach World Cup semi-finals

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The Netherlands squeezed through to the semi-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup after beating Costa Rica 4-3 on penalties in Salvador on Saturday night.

After a goalless 120 minutes, Louis van Gaal brought on Tim Krul and the move proved to be a masterstroke as he saved penalties from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to send the Dutch through.

A second-straight last-four appearance for the Oranje will see them take on Argentina in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, after Gonzalo Higuain’s eighth-minute strike was enough to see of Belgium by a single goal in Brasilia.

It will be their first semi-final in 24 years and fifth meeting with the Netherlands at the finals, but they will be looking for a first victory over them since the 1978 final.

Costa Rican resolve

Salvador has been a place of goals during the tournament so far, with 24 in all over the five previous matches, but that was not the case here as Costa Rica weathered the Dutch storm.

Keylor Navas was once again at the top of his game with his side in unchartered territory, keeping out an unmarked Robin van Persie in the first half.

Wesley Sneijder’s free-kick struck the post with eight minutes remaining, while Van Persie somehow missed the target from close range soon after.

Costa Rica’s hearts were in their mouths in stoppage-time as the ball fell to Van Persie, but Yeltsin Tejeda was back on the line to deflect his effort onto the crossbar.

Having been on the backfoot for most of the contest, the Central Americans went for it in extra-time and almost grabbed a dramatic late winner. Substitute Marcos Urena stole a yard on Daley Blind, but was well denied by Jasper Cilessen.

Shootout tension

With the shootout imminent, eyebrows were raised as Van Gaal made a bold move in changing his keeper as Krul came on in place of Cilessen.

After Celso Borges and Van Persie exchanged successful penalties, it soon became an inspired gamble when he got down well to his left to keep out Ruiz.

Arjen Robben gave the Dutch the advantage before Giancarlo Gonzalez and Sneijder also converted as well as Christian Bolanos and Dirk Kuyt.

This meant that Umana had to score, but the Newcastle United 'keeper got down to his left once again to push the ball wide.

The fairytale may be over for Costa Rica, but they have certainly gained many new fans along the way with their determination and never-say-die attitude.

On go the Netherlands. Now Argentina stand in their way of a place in the final.

Argentina defeat Belgium

It was only the eighth minute when the decisive blow was struck for Alejando Sabella's side against Belgium. Angel di Maria’s attempted pass for Pablo Zabaleta deflected kindly for Higuain, who drilled the ball home first time on the half-volley, leaving Thibaut Courtois with no chance.

The Napoli striker almost doubled his lead after the break, with a fine individual run that resulted in him clipping the top of the crossbar.

Belgium tried to find a way back into the game but had very little to offer in the final third, and Argentina very nearly finished them off in stoppage-time as he raced away from the defence only to be brilliantly denied by Courtois.

At the other end, the Belgians fashioned one final opportunity, but Romelu Lukaku’s cross was cleared away before Axel Witsel fired narrowly over the bar.

The semi-final line-up is complete. None of the four have particularly been at their staggering best, but they still have plenty left in the tank to offer in the business end of the finals.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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