Costa Rica's heroic run at the 2014 FIFA World Cup ended despite having not lost a single game in Brazil. They were defeated 4-3 in penalty kicks by the Netherlands, who will advance to face Argentina in the semifinal on Wednesday.
Keylor Navas was once again instrumental in giving the Ticos a chance against another world heavyweight, but he failed to stop a single penalty kick. Meanwhile, Tim Krul, who has played just one minute at this World Cup, proved to be the hero by stopping two penalties for the Dutch.
Krul was brought on in the final minute of the second extra time in place of Jasper Cillessen with manager Louis Van Gaal opting to go with the keeper who is known as a specialist at saving PKs. The move paid off with Krul making his presence felt. He was seen trying to play head games with Costa Rican penalty takers and guessed correctly on two shots, which proved to be the difference.
Over 120 minutes-plus of actual soccer, there was little to separate the two teams. Costa Rica dug in and withstood Dutch attacks that almost always went through the feet of Arjen Robben. His penetrating dribbles led to a barrage of corner kicks, set pieces and shots for the Netherlands. Time and time again, though, it was Navas and his very well positioned back line that proved to be too much for the Dutch to get past.
In the final minutes of regulation, the Netherlands had a variety of chances. None were clearer than a Van Persie shot that was turned away at the goal line by midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda with his goal keeper Navas out of the net. The shot somehow was deflected straight up in the air and hit the bar before going out.
The Ticos did not venture out past midfield in the first extra time much and absorbed some more attacks by the Dutch as it seemed they were merely trying to hold on for PKs. However, in the second extra time it was the Costa Ricans who got out on the front foot, which opened up the game for both sides.
Ultimately, it would be the cruel lottery of penalty kicks that would decide the final quarterfinal game of the World Cup. Misses, or rather Krul saves, on shots by Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umaña ended Costa Rica's run and sent the Dutch into a final four of World Cup heavyweights with Brazil, Germany and Argentina.
SCORE: Netherlands: 0 (4) - Costa Rica: 0 (3)
CRC MISS - Umaña vs. Krul: Krul guessed right to his left, the shot was deflected away and the Dutch win!
NED MAKE - Kuyt vs. Navas: Hard taken penalty to his left. Navas guessed correctly, but had no chance. 4-3 Netherlands.
CRC MAKE - Bolaños vs. Krul: Well taken to his left. Krul guessed correctly, but didn't make it there. 3-3 all tied.
NED MAKE - Sneijder vs. Navas: Doesn't look at the keeper, takes the shot to the left and hard. 3-2 Netherlands.
CRC MAKE - Gonzalez vs. Krul: Hard shot to the right. 2-2 All tied.
NED MAKE - Robben vs. Navas: Left footed strike to the upper left corner. Navas dove the wrong way. 2-1 Netherlands.
CRC MISS - Ruiz vs. Krul: Low and to the right, soft shot, blocked by Krul!
NED MAKE- Van Persie vs. Navas: Low and to the right 1-1 all tied.
CRC MAKE- Borges vs. Krul: Low and to the right. 1-0 Costa Rica.
Costa Rica wins the coin toss and chooses to kick first.
End of Extra Time: We're headed for penalty kicks! It'll be Navas, perhaps the keeper of the tournament against PK specialist Krul.
SUBSTITUTION FOR NETHERLANDS: Jasper Cillessen out, Tim Krul in. Interesting substitution as Van Gaal favors Krul for penalty kicks.
119' - Netherlands hit the crossbar! Sneijder sweeps a right footed shot from about 19 yards out over Navas, but it hits the bar! This is turning out to be an epic finish, but we appear to be headed for penalty kicks..
116' - Ureña takes on a pair of Dutch defenders to create a shot with his right foot in the box that gets turned away! A second shot was also turned away as Costa Rica turns on the heat in the closing minutes! Costa Rica's best chances of the game!
115' - Costa Rica getting bold in the end! Ruiz tried to get through on an aggressive dribble effort of his own only to be turned away. Bolaños claimed the rebound and earned a corner kick out of it. The corner sailed high and wide without any danger, but the last couple of minutes have given Costa Rica chances to take this before penalty kicks.
113' - Bolaños attempted a heroic dribble through a few Dutch defenders in the box and very nearly got a shot off, but it was just a pretty dribble in the end. And a good effort.
111' - Costa Rica attempted to maintain some possession of the ball in the Dutch half, with little to show for it. A counter by the Netherlands led to a cross which Navas brought down. However, he was hit in the face by Huntelaar. Medical attention for Navas and another breather for both sides.
110' - Costa Rica hoofed a long ball into the Netherlands area and tried to make something out of it, but Ureña wasn't able to do much on his own.
108' - The ball was knocked around a bit in the box, but no real danger came of it. The resulting possession led to a ninth corner kick for the Netherlands. That corner kick did not provide the Dutch with a solid chance, however.
107' - A hard challenge by Acosta on Robben leads to a yellow card for the Costa Rican. There was no diving here. Robben took the worst of a very hard tackle, leading to a free kick in dangerous territory just off the box on the right flank.
106' - We're under way in the second extra time.
SUBSTITUTION FOR NETHERLANDS: Bruno Martins Indi out, Klass-Jan Huntelaar in. Striker for defender. The message is clear.
End of first extra time: Costa Rica crossed the midfield line with possession of the ball one time. The goal appears to be clear now. Hold off for 15 more minutes and head to penalty kicks. If something should come up in the way of a counter attack, that's swell too. The Dutch, meanwhile, continue to find little to no openings in the stout Costa Rican defense.
105' - Costa Rican players cramping up in the humidity of Salvador. Two minutes added to the first extra time.
102' - Robben's shot was deflected away by Diaz and a handball was called. Replays showed the ball hit him in the back as he turned away. Another mistake the ref made on the play: if he deemed it to be a hand ball, Diaz likely should have seen his second yellow of the game. Thankfully that didn't happen.
100' - Costa Rica asked for the ball to be played out after Ruiz went down following an elbow by Martins. Somehow, nobody saw the elbow. Martins has gotten away with plenty so far in this one. Ruiz got up eventually and seemed to be more concerned that the linesman didn't see the elbow than he was hurt.
97' - A penalty shout for Costa Rica went for nothing when Ureña took a spill in the box. Vlaar took offense to what he perceived to be diving (how ironic is that?) and nothing was called on the play. The replay seemed inconclusive, but it didn't appear to be a penalty.
96' SUBSTITUTION FOR COSTA RICA: Yelstsin Tejeda out, Jose Cubero in.
95' - The second corner was awkwardly defended by Costa Rica after Navas came out and whiffed at the cross -- a rare mistake by him. He asked to be tended to by the medical staff after coming down somewhat awkwardly, but this appears to be more a well-timed opportunity to give his team a breather. The resulting third corner was defended away.
93' - A corner kick earned by the Dutch following another great dribble effort by Robben led to a free header by Vlaar which was turned away for another corner.
91' - We're under way in extra time.
End of regulation - The Dutch had chance after chance in the final minutes of regulation, but the ball refused to go in. Costa Rica has forced extra time and we've got -- at least 30 minutes of soccer ahead of us to decide the final semifinalist.
90'+1' - A miracle that the Netherlands didn't score! A point blank shot by Van Persie was deflected off the line by a defender and somehow went straight up in the air to hit the crossbar. Incredible!
90'- Four minutes were added and Junior Diaz brought down Robben on the edge of the penalty box over the far right corner. Considering Diaz had a yellow, he should thank his lucky stars he wasn't sent off. Definitely could have been after that foul. RVP's shot went right at Navas, who punched it away.
88' - Van Persie had his chance! Sneijder finds some room down the left side, crossing back over to his right foot before setting up RVP with a point-blank chance by the far post. RVP failed to make contact, however and the ball sailed harmlessly over the goal line. It only needed a tap.
87' - Lens bullied his way down the left flank, beating two defenders with strength only to be cleared away. Organized attacks have been few and far in between lately for either team.
85' - Van Persie sneaks behind the two Costa Rican center backs in an onside position, but the ball is just a hair beyond his control. He's able to bring the ball down, but not with a chance to do anything. Had he done so, he was one on one with Navas.
84' - Another set piece chance for the Dutch is cleared away, but not out of danger. Van Persie created his own shot after a dribble on the right side of the penalty box and yet again it is Navas who saved it. The Dutch are making their move now, it appears.
82' - The shot hits the post! Navas may have been beaten to his near post on a curler from Sneijder, but it crashes into the post. This was probably the best chance of the game for either side.
81' - Robben tries his luck on the left side for a change. He tries to take on Giancarlo Gonzalez and beats him. He was tugged and, of course, took the opportunity to go down for the foul. It was a clear foul and a deserved yellow for Gonzalez, who would miss the semifinal for Costa Rica if they move on.
79' - Lens was found wide open for a clear header in front of Navas, he was offside. The shot was turned away by Navas still, of course.
78' - SUBSITUTION FOR COSTA RICA: Cristian Gamboa out, Dave Myrie in. Gamboa taken off in a stretcher after suffering an apparent injury after an awkward fall. Would be concerned about his availability going forward if Costa Rica were to move on.
77' - Robben thought better of a cross and tried to take on four Costa Rican defenders. He wasn't successful, but did get a corner kick.
75' SUBSTITUION FOR NETHERLANDS: Memphis Depay out, Jeremain Lens in.
74' - A high kick, dangerous play was called on Costa Rica leading to a dangerous cross for the Dutch, but the header was off the mark.
72' - Netherlands regaining possession of the ball, but with little to no threat to their attack. Costa Rica still well positioned in the back.
68' - With Costa Rica attacking, some space is created for the Netherlands to exploit. Robben's aggressive dribble leads to a corner kick for the Dutch, which is once again turned away.
67' - Bit by bit, Costa Rica is starting to come out of its shell. More attacks coming from the wings ending up in crosses to the Dutch penalty area.
66' - SUBSTITUTION FOR COSTA RICA: Joel Campbell out, Marco Ureña in.
64' - Another foul by Martins was this time met with a yellow card. A set piece chance from about 40 yards out off to the right led to a good chance on a header, but it missed the mark.
61' - A similar foul to the one that was not called in the box was called in favor of Costa Rica from about 35 yards out. The set piece chance was wasted when Bolaños took a wild shot that sailed way wide and high of the goal.
60' - A Costa Rican counter attack was led by Junior Diaz who found space on the left side. He passed it back to Joel Campbell. The ball was deflected a bit and Martins appeared to shove Campbell in the back. For the second time in the game, no call on a possible Martins penalty.
59' - Corner kick for the Netherlands, once again defended well by Costa Rica. The clock continues to tick and the Dutch appear to grow increasingly frustrated.
58' - Robben did an amazing job of handling a cross-field pass that seemed to skip away from him. His dribble down the right side led to a pass to Kuyt in the box, but he wasn't in position to do much. The attack was once again thwarted by Costa Rica without a shot.
55' - Van Persie uses great positioning to use his body and get around a Costa Rican defender, leading to a corner kick for the Dutch. He tried to get a shot off, but it was blocked. The corner kick was headed away by Costa Rica. The Netherlands are having to try to find different ways of getting through this well positioned, disciplined Tico defense.
52' - Another penetrating dribble by Robben up the right side resulted in him being hacked down by two Costa Rican defenders. Michael Umaña got the yellow as Robben was sent flying through the air. The Dutch tried a designed set piece, freeing up Sneijder at the top of the box for a one-time shot, but it sailed well over Navas' net.
50' - Still a stalemate in midfield with neither team really able to create much in the way of attacking threats or possession in the final third on either side.
48' - An awkward cross by Junior Diaz from the left flank tested Cillessen, who had to backtrack a bit to get to the ball.
46' - Second half under way. No substitutions made by either side.
HALFTIME: Costa Rica's gameplan is clear. Let the Netherlands have the ball and keep everything in front of them in the final third. From time to time, see what Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz and Cristian Bolaños can muster up. The Dutch seem to be getting frustrated as the minutes go on, but they've had the better of the chances so far. There's definitely a talking point to be made about the non-call on Martins in the box when he clearly grabbed Celso Borges as he went up for a header. The 0-0 scoreline does seem to fit this game, though.
45' - Van Persie pivots at the top of the Costa Rica 18-yard box, but the Ticos hold strong and force the Netherlands back. They find Kuyt down the right wing with space, however. His cross skips across the middle of the box and is cleared away as the half ticks to an end.
41'- Slowly, the Dutch are starting to find space for darting runs behind the Costa Rican back line. RVP finds the back of Costa Rican defenders, but was met by Navas, playing the role of sweeper.
37'- Robben was fouled by Junior Diaz deep in Costa Rica's territory. His appeals to the ref indicated that Robben dived, but he was given a yellow for apparently tugging at Robben, who did make a meal of it. Keylor Navas was put to the test by Sneijder from about 35 yards out with a terrific free kick chance. The diving save turned it away for a corner as the Tico keeper continues to shine.
34'- Yet another foul by the Dutch in their own final third led to a dangerous set piece opportunity. A designed play led to a cross to the second post which was headed back into the middle. A bicycle kick attempt created some danger to the Dutch goal, but it was turned away and led to a counter attack by Robben, who was fouled. It was Costa Rica's first semi chance of the game.
31'- Van Persie tracked back to help his team, but clumsily fouls defender Johnny Acosta. Another set piece for Costa Rica was handled by Cillessen, who intercepted the cross.
29'- Memphis Depay made an attacking run was found open down the left side of the Costa Rica box for a clear shot. Navas turned him away, but it was a good chance for the Dutch and their third shot of the game.
26'- A set piece for Costa Rica in the Netherland's third. Borges was being held by Bruno Martins Indi as he went up for the cross, but no call was made. Could have been given as a PK to Costa Rica, but that's often a call where the ref swallows the whistle as he did there.
24'- Van Persie was judged to be offside on a near chance for the Netherlands. Replays showed it was the right call, but just by a bit as the Costa Rican defense gambled a bit in their own penalty area.
21'- Costa Rica advanced their lines a bit in their first honest attempt to pin the Dutch back. It nearly backfired as the Netherlands ended up getting two very good shots against Keylor Navas on the counter. First it was Robin Van Persie who was turned away, then it was Sneijder -- the first two shots of the game.
19'- Right back Cristian Gamboa made a run up the right flank for Costa Rica. His cross wasn't very threatening, but the change of pace was.
17'- Fans in the stands have gone from whistling their distaste at the stalemate forming in midfield to doing the wave.
15'- Costa Rica recovers a Robben giveaway near midfield and attempts to set up shop and keep possession for a bit for the first time in the game. Christian Bolaños is the playmaker they seek several times here, but he's got nothing cooking up front to work with. Netherlands regains possession.
13' - Some whistles and hissing coming down from the stands now as the Dutch are content to pass the ball around from side to side with their back line with the Ticos sitting back and waiting for them to advance.
11' - Costa Rica's first real approach toward Cillessen's net came via Celso Borges down the right flank, but his cross across the turf toward waiting Dutch defenders didn't really create any issues.
9' - Junior Diaz missed a clearance and the ball got behind him and to the feet of Robben. Usually a dangerous predicament, but Robben's dribble from left to center met resistance. No harm done.
8' - Robben's first penetrating dribble of the game forces a corner, which he himself takes. The ball is cleared away. Netherlands retains possession. Rinse and repeat.
6' - Netherlands continue to dominate possession, but Costa Rica is digging in whenever the ball gets into the final third. Expect the Ticos to look to absorb a lot of pressure and clamp down deep in their own zone. It might take the Netherlands shooting from long range to open them up a bit, but that hasn't happened yet.
3' - Early on, and predictably, it's Costa Rica waiting and chasing the ball around, but a turnover at midfield forces Stefan De Vrij to commit a hard foul to prevent a Costa Rica counter.
1' - We're under way in Salvador. Netherlands press early and have the early possession.
The starting lineups have been announced for both teams:
Match Preview: It's safe to say that the days of Costa Rica sneaking up on opponents are over.
After winning the so-called "Group of Champions" over Italy, England, and Uruguay, Costa Rica beat Greece to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in its history. But don't expect the Dutch to take them lightly.
"These games don't come easier. There are no easy games," Netherlands defender Ron Vlaar said earlier this week. "Costa Rica beat Uruguay and Italy and then drew against England. Then they beat Greece. It will be another hard game again, but we are really looking forward to it. It's a great challenge again."
The Netherlands, it should be noted, needed a bit of luck to reach the quarterfinals. After falling behind a defensive-minded Mexico side, the Dutch somehow strung together two goals in the game's final minutes for the win. One was a Wesley Sneijder strike on a rebound at the top of the box; the other a penalty kick after a, um, questionable foul call in the box.
Regardless, they're through, and the only thing standing in their way is a team that was expected to be walked over in Group D.
But Costa Rica proved to be anything but a doormat, setting the tone in the group with a decisive 3-1 victory over Uruguay in its opening match, and following that with a 1-0 win over Italy.
Forwards Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell have been problems for opposing defenses, and Keylor Navas has been brilliant in goal. But the Dutch boast a powerful attack, too -- led by the aforementioned Robben and Sneijder, as well as Robin Van Persie -- which would appear to be enough to overpower the Costa Ricans.
But almost every team to this point has seemed capable of overpowering the Costa Ricans. Still hasn't happened.