Shootout Victory Sends Netherlands To World Cup Semifinals
The semifinals of the World Cup have been decided. Saturday's winners, Netherlands and Argentina, will meet each other on the field in Sao Paulo on Wednesday for a shot at the title.
The other half of that final match will be decided when Germany plays Brazil on Tuesday.
Netherlands vs. Costa Rica
In a match-up where Costa Rica was labeled the underdog, they held their own against an aggressive Dutch team and brought the game to a penalty shootout.
Costa Rica and the Netherlands couldn't find a goal in 120 minutes, mostly thanks to some great goalkeeping play. It's been mostly one-way traffic — the Oranje have had all of the possession and a big shots advantage — but the Ticos have defended well and earned a 0-0 draw to get to a penalty shootout.
But unlike their penalty win against Greece a few days prior, Costa Rica couldn't bring this one home.
Netherlands substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul made two saves in the 4-3 shootout, stopping shots from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana.
The New York Times writes this about Costa Rica's impressive World Cup run:
Costa Rica will go home. But Los Ticos leave this World Cup with their heads held very high. Given 4,000-to-1 odds to win the tournament, they won one of the most difficult groups, defeated two former World Cup champions, conceded only two goals in five games (one of those on a penalty kick), and nearly squeezed their way into the semifinals. Their run here will be long remembered.
Argentina vs. Belgium
Argentina advances to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990 after its win against Belgium 1-0.
The single goal in the match was made by Gonzalo Higuain, who converted a deflected pass into the net.
"Higuain for once outshone Lionel Messi, but the Barcelona star also provided a constant threat that kept Marc Wilmot's Belgium side on the back foot.
"Messi started off playing deep, seeing plenty of the ball and creating some good positions for his teammates. One such move put Ezequiel Lavezzi clear on the right and only Vincent Kompany's alert intervention prevented a goal.
"It took less than eight minutes, however, for Argentina to take a huge step towards the semifinal and it was Messi, twisting and turning in midfield, who was the architect.
"His incisive pass to Angel Di Maria was diverted to Higuain, taking a nick off a defender which caused the ball to bounce up for the Napoli striker to swivel and thump a first-time shot low into the corner from 25 yards out."
Thousands of fans sang and chanted for Argentina, in what The New York Times said was a "wave of support in what felt like a home game." By contrast, "The Belgians, who required extra time to beat the United States in the previous round, had a flurry of attempts on goal in the closing minutes but were unable to convert."
The Associated Press says: "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."