Van Gaal's goalkeeper gamble pays off in shootout win
Brave Costa Rica outwitted by van Gaal's move to field reserve goalkeeper Krul for shootout
COSTA RICA 0
- After extra time. Holland win 4-3 on penalties.
Louis van Gaal made the riskiest substitution in World Cup history, the switch of the century, and it paid off in spectacular fashion.
Only the irrepressible Dutch coach owns the ego to make a decision beyond most mortals.
With the world watching, no other coach would have the audacity, the arrogance or the sheer breathtaking gall to be so resolutely certain of their own judgment.
Van Gaal hauled off his first-choice goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for penalty specialist Tim Krul in the 120th minute in a move that left no margin for error.
If Krul prevailed, van Gaal was the new messiah of Holland. If Krul failed, his coach was a very naughty boy.
Well, Holland, hail the king of wishful thinking. Van Gaal is fast becoming the coaching Nostradamus of Holland.
Krul saved two penalties to win the shootout 4-3, shatter Costa Rican hearts and send Holland through to a much tougher test against Argentina.
When he steps out for the semi-final, van Gaal will struggle to squeeze his head into the dugout.
Never one to shy away from self-praise, he lavished compliments upon himself for his tactical tinkering against Australia and Mexico, but this one took the biscuit factory.
Manchester United sacked David Moyes when they finally realised they had replaced the Old Trafford emperor with a mouse. This time, they've hired a monster.
It's already windy across those Lancashire Pennines, but Manchester might want to batten down the hatches. A whirlwind is coming.
Once he has completed his swagger through the World Cup of course, slicing through sceptics with every successful substitution.
No one has ever been endowed with such a unique combination of gumption, resolve, calculated recklessness and sheer bloody-mindedness to hook a goalkeeper in the 120th minute of a World Cup stalemate in the knockout stages.
The obvious potential for public backlash outweighs any possible positives.
The late Sir Bobby Robson went to his grave still fielding questions about that infamous semi-final shootout between England and West Germany in 1990, when he left a recognised penalty stopper on the bench in Dave Beasant and stuck with the ageing Peter Shilton.
Shilton never got close to a penalty and Robson never quite shook off the accusation of tactical timidity. But few blamed him. Only a madman replaces a goalkeeper for a penalty shootout.
GALL OF VAN GAAL
But van Gaal is crazy like a fox. His tactical cunning finally killed off the resistance of the most romantic side left in the tournament.
Making no apologies for their defensive stance, the Ticos established lines of five and four from kick-off, with Junior Diaz and Cristian Gamboa permitted to push on when possible.
The Ticos' approach has not been negative at this tournament. In fact, Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz soon switched positions to take advantage of Daley Blind's vulnerability.
Campbell moved to the right to attack Blind in tandem with Gamboa.
Junior Diaz was markedly less adventurous on the other side. He had Arjen Robben to contend with.
The Costa Ricans were writing history just by being in Salvador, but they had no intention of shaming themselves in their first quarter-final.
Robben made a nuisance of himself and Robin van Persie forced a couple of routine saves from Keylor Navas, but the first 80 minutes were a tepid affair.
Dutch faces increasingly resembled their jerseys as the Oranje laboured in the Salvador heat to break down their obdurate opponents.
In the middle of the Ticos' three centre backs, Giancarlo Gonzalez marshalled the trio superbly, holding the line to neuter Robben's crossing from the right.
But the late loss of the injured Gamboa appeared to liberate the Dutch.
They woke from their Salvador slumber in the final minutes of normal time, with Wesley Sneijder cracking a free-kick against the post and Robin van Persie watching in horror as his close-range effort ricocheted off the crossbar.
Finally, Salvador had a spectacle. A contest that had long been comatose suddenly woke up to deliver a chaotic climax.
The terrific Ticos were hanging on for their lives. After enduring a penalty shootout victory less than a week earlier, their legs threatened to go on strike.
Memories of Mexico gave the Dutch coverage and left the Costa Ricans jittery, but late goals eluded Holland this time. The 2,500-1 outsiders to win the World Cup before the tournament started had survived 120 minutes of their first quarter-final.
Sneijder clattered the woodwork a second time in the 118th minute, but the Ticos held on, forcing van Gaal to make his move.
There has never been a more dramatic gamble taken in a World Cup dugout, but it came off. The substitution had to be Krul to be kind for Holland.
BRAVE TICOS: Costa Rica's Michael Umana (left) trying to hide his dejection after missing the crucial kick.
- Brazil v Germany (Wed, 4am)
- Holland v Argentina (Thurs, 4am)
HOW THE SHOOTOUT WENT
GIANCARLO GONZALEZ (Costa Rica)
The Dutch pummelled the Ticos, but on this occasion it wasn't the goalkeeping underdog that kept opponents at bay. Gonzalez was a colossus in the middle of defence. One of three centre backs, the 26-year-old Colombus Crew player held the line throughout and controlled the penalty box. The clean sheet was thoroughly deserved and he even put away a neat penalty in the shootout.