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 — Gonzalo Higuain’s first goal of this World Cup sent Argentina into the semifinals on Saturday with a 1-0 win over a disappointing Belgium.
Argentina, which hadn’t advanced past the World Cup quarterfinals since 1990, put in its best performance so far in the tournament, controlling the match after Higuain’s eighth minute goal.
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 net.
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 in stoppage time when Courtois stopped his shot.
Belgium lacked the creativity to find a way past Argentina’s defensive line, and created few clear chances apart from a pair of headers by Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini.
Argentina was knocked out in the quarterfinals in the previous two World Cups, both times by Germany. The last time it reached the semifinal stage was 24 years ago in Italy, when Diego Maradona led the team to the final, which it lost 1-0 to West Germany.
In Brasilia on Saturday, Argentina never lost control even after Di Maria — the team’s most influential player in Brazil aside from Messi — was substituted by Enzo Perez in the 33rd. The winger had appeared to hurt his right leg while taking a shot five minutes earlier.
Argentina took the lead when Di Maria picking up a pass from Messi, cut in from the right and tried to find fullback Pablo Zabaleta, but his pass bounced off Jan Vertonghen into Higuain’s path.
The Napoli striker avenged himself for a string of mediocre performances in Brazil and was Argentina’s best player before being substituted by Fernando Gago in the 81st.
By wire sources