The Netherlands clinched a dramatic victory over Costa Rica to earn a place in the semifinals with a win on penalties to end the minnows' dream run.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal made the bold decision to replace Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul ahead of the penalty shootout, and the gambit paid off as the Newcastle keeper saved from Bryan Ruiz to put his side through.
Van Gaal picked a very attacking lineup to start the game, with an almost nonexistant midfield but a tough defence and a mouthwatering attack. Costa Rica took a somewhat pragmatic approach for the occasion in contrast, and the two sides largely balanced each other, with the Ticos frustrating their more illustrious opponents for much of the game.
Holland were still on top of course, and they created the first chance when Robin van Persie collected a fine first-time pass from Wesley Sneijder to fire goalwards. However, it was to be another superb performance from Keylor Navas, and he kept out the effort as well as Sneijder's follow-up.
Costa Rica had hardly gained smash-and-grab victories in the tournament so far, but they were severely outclassed in most of the pitch by the Netherlands. Fortunately, Navas was at hand with another great performance. After first denying Memphis Depay with his feet, he then pushed over a Sneijder set-piece to keep the scores deadlocked for the first half.
The second period continued in much the same pattern, with Holland turning the screw as fatigue got to the Ticos. Costa Rica did have a penalty shout, however, when the surprisingly quiet Joel Campbell was bundled over in the area by Bruno Martins Indi, but the referee decided not to award what would have been a very harsh penalty.
The Netherlands finally beat Navas soon after via a Sneijder free-kick, but it did not beat the woodwork as the veteran midfielder saw his effort crash off the post. The bombardment continued, and Navas was equal to most of it, but must have breathed a sigh of relief at the end of regulation time when van Persie somehow mis-kicked at the far post from Sneijder's brilliant pass.
Junior Diaz then gained a slice of fortune afterwards as he avoided a second yellow for a clumsy challenge on Arjen Robben. Van Persie blasted in the resultant free-kick, but Navas shoved it away to keep his side in the game.
The Netherlands could not have gone much closer when a ball scythed along the corridor of uncertainty, somehow eluding two Dutch attackers and three Costa Rica defenders, only to fall to the feet of van Persie. The Manchester United man blasted his effort goalwards, but Yeltsin Tejeda had got back to the line; he managed to clear it onto the crossbar before it was eventually run out of play after further mad hacking in a last-minute goalmouth scramble.
Next Opponent for Dutch
Next Opponent for Dutch
Extra-time beckoned, but it was a lot less lively than the final period of normal time, as both sides began to feel the effects of fatigue. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was hurled on to find a goal, but the Netherlands could not create any meaningful chances.
Yet just as the match appeared to be winding down, the final 10 minutes produced some of the most dramatic football of the tournament. Marco Urena suddenly broke and beat two men before getting past Stefan de Vrij and going clean through, but saw his effort saved by Cillessen. The Netherlands then came within a hair's breadth of scoring when Sneijder clattered the bar with a long-range effort, and Robben's follow-up was blocked.
With penalties looming, Van Gaal then made another left-field decision, replacing his goalkeeper as Jasper Cillessen was withdrawn for Tim Krul. It was highly controversial and hugely bold decision to withdraw Cillessen ahead of the penalty shootout, despite him saving his country from certain doom just two minutes prior. Tim Krul -- a man who has saved two of his last twenty penalties faced -- came on to replace him ahead of the dramatic finale.
Van Persie and Celso Borges both converted their penalties low into the bottom corner, but Van Gaal's substitution paid off when Krul was able to keep out Bryan Ruiz to give the Netherlands an early advantage, cemented by Robben scoring on his attempt. Giancarlo Gonzalez kept the Ticos in it, but they were unable to keep Sneijder out on his shot. Christian Bolanos also scored, but so did Dirk Kuyt, leaving two penalties left between Holland and the semi-finals.
Umana stepped up to take his, but Krul once again made the save to fully vindicate his manager's decision and put his side through to the semi-finals.
Netherlands: Cillessen; Vlaar, de Vrij, Martins Indi; Blind, Sneijder, Wijnaldum, Kuyt; Depay (Lens 76'), van Persie, Robben.
Costa Rica: Navas, Diaz, Acosta; Gonzalez, Umana, Gamboa (Myrie 79'); Tejada, Bolanos, Borges; Campbell (Urena 66'), Ruiz.