World Cup roundup: NED-CRC, ARG-BEL (July 5)
Netherlands 0 (4), Costa Rica 0 (3)
SALVADOR, Brazil — Tim Krul came on as a substitute in the final minute of extra time and then saved two penalties in a 4-3 shootout victory over Costa Rica, giving the Netherlands a spot in the World Cup semifinals.
"We had a lot of chances but it didn't go in," Krul said on Dutch television. "Then I come in, stop two penalties and here we are."
In another stroke of tactical genius at this year's World Cup, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal pulled Jasper Cillessen moments after the Ajax goalkeeper had saved a shot from Marcos Urena in extra time.
"The trick is good," said Krul, who plays for Newcastle. "A lot of preparation went into it."
The Dutch team will next face Argentina in the semifinals on Wednesday in Sao Paulo.
Argentina 1, Belgium 0
BRASILIA, Brazil — This time for Argentina, it was less about Lionel Messi and more about the men behind him.
Argentina made the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time in 24 years as stubborn defending and clever tactics overcame Belgium in a tight 1-0 victory.
Before the quarterfinals, Messi's magic had bailed out the team as it labored unimpressively through the group stage and past Switzerland in the second round, relying on four goals and a couple of assists from its playmaking superstar.
But coach Alejandro Sabella's strategy appeared to work at Brasilia's Estadio Nacional as Argentina scored early and then out-maneuvered a Belgium team that was left completely frustrated.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots criticized Argentina as "an ordinary team" that relied on a couple of attacking players and mostly defense, built on the back four and combative midfielders Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano.
It was good enough to beat Belgium, though, and might be the key to Argentina overcoming more impressive teams in the last four of the World Cup as the South Americans go in search of a third title but first since 1986.
Despite having a team that includes Messi, probably the most exciting attacking player in the game, Sabella is a firm believer in the importance of closing down other teams and limiting their opportunities. He calls it "occupying the spaces" and used his favorite catchphrase 10 times in an answer Friday when explaining tactics to a reporter.
"It was a team that was very well balanced today. ... Sometimes forward, sometimes to the back," he said.
And even Messi has a defensive role in Sabella's game plan.
Argentina's No. 10 tracked back to help out when his team didn't have the ball against Belgium, even resorting to a foul to halt a late Belgian counterattack. Not the kind of thing you would normally expect from Barcelona's four-time world player of the year.
"They had a great defense because they knew how to close down the space we were looking for," Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said as he watched his team push forward for most of the second half, and yet manage just four attempts on target through the 90 minutes.
That's exactly what Sabella's tactics are designed to do.
"It is not only scoring goals," Sabella said.