Salvador: Goalkeeper Tim Krul called it a “dream come true” after he was boldly brought on as a shoot-out specialist and saved two against Costa Rica to help The Netherlands advance to the World Cup semi-finals.
The towering Newcastle United custodian replaced Jasper Cillessen in the last minute of extra-time in an outlandish gambit by the Manchester United-bound coach Louis van Gaal. And the 1.93-metre tall Krul responded brilliantly, denying shots from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana via tiebreaker to win the game 4-3 for Netherlands and set up a semi-final date with Argentina.
“It’s surreal… I can’t describe the feeling at the moment,” a delighted Krul told the Fifa website.
“I’ve seen so many times on television when players are ecstatic and run towards goalkeepers after they save spot-kicks and win the game for their team. That it was for me in a World Cup quarter-final is something surreal and I don’t think it’ll sink in for another couple of days at least.”
Krul also revealed the secret to his spot-kick-saving success. “I watched them (Costa Rica) against Greece and studied them and told the players that I knew where they were going to shoot in order to make them a bit nervous,” the 26-year-old said with a mischievous grin.
“Maybe it worked. It happened before when I played against Frank Lampard: I told him that I knew and I saved it. I just tried that again. I’m so happy it worked in this game too.”
It ended a woeful Dutch run in penalty shoot-outs, which previously resulted in only one victory out of five attempts at World Cups and European Championships. Krul said the switch, which was kept secret from Cillessen, had been in the works all week as the Netherlands were getting ready for the quarter-final game.
“I knew before the game that the possibility was there. If we had one more substitution, the manager said that he would consider putting me in goal and it happened,” he said.
“It’s a dream come true for me. I watched the spot-kicks. We’ve been preparing with all the goalkeepers and the goalkeeper coach.”
Needless to say, Krul’s teammates were thrilled with his heroics. “Tim is amazing,” said Dirk Kuyt.
“It’s not easy to come on in the last minute of the game and face spot-kicks. But we know that he is a very good penalty saver and the way he did it was amazing. Tim can be proud of himself and so are we of him. I think the whole country is proud of him.”
Meanwhile, Cillessen apologised to his Netherlands teammates and coaching staff for his petulant outburst after he was substituted with seconds remaining for the end of extra time, Dutch media reported on Sunday.
Cillessen was surprised by the decision to replace him with Krul Van Gaal reckoned the latter would be a better goalkeeper for the shoot-out. “I want to apologise. I’ve already done to Frans Hoek (the Dutch goalkeeper coach) and I will do so to the whole squad.
“I knew nothing about this. The change was a shock to my system,” he told reporters.
Cillessen stormed off and kicked several water bottles before taking his place on the bench. But once Krul had made two decisive saves to ensure a win in the shoot-out after both teams ended goalless, Cillessen was among the first to rush on to the field to congratulate his substitute.
“In the 119th minute, Jasper made a fantastic save. If he had not pulled it off, we might well have had to head home,” Krul said. Van Gaal’s decision to replace Cillessen with Krul if the match went to tiebreaker was one he seemingly didn’t disclose to most of his players. They simply had no idea before the change.
His Costa Rican counterpart Jorge Luis Pinto was asked about the Dutch decision to switch goalkeepers just before the shoot-out and bring on Krul. “Maybe he’s a specialist. I respect that…
“I’ve never seen that before ... But we were not intimidated at all,” Pinto said. (AGENCIES)