Tim Krul the reason for Dutch delight
Tim Krul took on the oldest tradition in penalty shootout folklore and won.
Ordinarily, the lottery favours the goalkeeper.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the man between the sticks is not expected to prevail.
He faces a loaded weapon from 12 yards. He can't catch bullets. He shouldn't survive.
Failure is expected. Heroism is an added bonus, not a prerequisite of the job. Only the penalty-taker is put on the spot. He cannot miss. He dare not miss. Fortune usually favours the goalkeeper.
But Krul bucked the trend the moment he replaced Jasper Cillessen in the 120th minute.
Suddenly, he was not a gallant underdog but a cocky interloper; a cheeky Dickensian villain. He came with great expectations.
Most goalkeepers view shootouts as walk-on parts. His angular frame was tasked with stealing centre-stage.
Being a hero was in his job description. For the first time, the goalkeeper was not there to make up the numbers. He was there to keep them down.
Krul had to save penalties, for himself, for Cillessen, for his country and, perhaps most of all, for his coach.
Louis van Gaal was playing Russian roulette, rotating his shotstoppers instead of gun chamber. But the end result still promised to be messy.
Initially, Krul didn't endear himself to a global, cynical audience by stretching the gamesmanship beyond its recognisable limits.
He fist-bumped Bryan Ruiz and exchanged words. They eyeballed each other. Krul edged the brinkmanship towards an unacceptable boundary and the Costa Rican blinked first.
The striker pushed his penalty towards the bottom right-hand corner and Krul palmed the weaker effort around the post. Ruiz had been more assertive against the Greeks, but the goalkeeper's stop was no less impressive.
When Giancarlo Gonzalez stepped up for the third penalty, Krul rattled the crossbar repeatedly, resembling an outraged orang utan. It was a wonder he didn't pummel his own chest.
Instead, he glared at Gonzalez and held a finger under his eyes.
He smiled. His gesture said it all. I know where your penalty is going.
Krul was correct, but failed to reach the well-placed drive. In fact, he went the right way on all five penalties, vindicating his coach's decision with his consistency.
BEST FOR THE LAST
But he saved his best till last, swopping places with the devastated Michael Umana. The Costa Rican defender converted the decisive fifth penalty against Greece. This time, his luck was out.
He looked on in horror as Krul made a spectacular stop, diving to his left to push Holland into the semi-finals.
Van Gaal had defied conventional wisdom. Krul had turned from pitch invader to penalty inspiration in a matter of minutes.
He will earn international headlines and the delirious gratitude of his countrymen, but probably not a place in the starting line-up against Argentina.
Krul saves the shots, but only van Gaal calls them.
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HOW THE SHOOTOUT WENT
TNP GRAPHICS: BILLY KER
We thought it through... we felt tim would be the most appropriate goalkeeper to save penalties... tim has a longer reach and a better track record with penalties than (jasper) Cillessen... if it hadn’t, it would have been my mistake.
- Holland coach Louis van Gaal on his decision to bring on Tim Krul for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica