Netherlands Tops Costa Rica in Shootout to Reach Cup Semi

The Netherlands defeated Costa Rica in a penalty shootout to advance to the semifinal of soccer’s World Cup to meet Argentina, which defeated Belgium 1-0 earlier.

The Dutch and Argentina will meet July 9 in Sao Paulo, while Germany and host Brazil will play a day earlier in Belo Horizonte. The tournament ends July 13 with a final in Rio de Janeiro.

Costa Rica forced the match into a penalty shootout yesterday after keeping the Dutch from scoring for 120 minutes, with it finishing 0-0 after extra time. Tim Krul, who was brought for the penalties, saved two Costa Rican attempts, allowing the Europeans to win the shootout 4-3 in Salvador.

“The sub was terrific, if you see something like that, it deserves credit,” Dutch captain Robin van Persie told the British Broadcasting Corp. “We know Tim Krul is great at stopping pens.”

Argentina beat Belgium 1-0 on an early first-half goal from Gonzalo Higuain to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1990.

The Dutch had the best chance of the first half, with man-of-the-match Keylor Navas saving from van Persie and then Wesley Sneijder in the 21st minute. Navas saved Sneijder’s long free kick five minutes from halftime.

Less than 10 minutes from full-time, Sneijder’s free kick bounced off the post, and then moments later, Navas got down to block a van Persie attempt.

In the final minutes of injury time, the Dutch had a ball come across the box but no one could put it in the Central Americans goal. It came to van Persie, whose shot was kept out by Yeltsin Tejada and went out for a goal kick.

Extra Time

In the second period of extra time, both sides had chances, with Sneijder hitting the crossbar. Just before the end of extra time, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal replaced goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Krul in preparation for the penalty shootout.

It paid off as he saved attempts from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana. Krul talked to each of the penalty takers to try to unsettle them before their attempts.

“We’re proud,” Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. “We’re not a world power. We work with what we have. We’re going home unbeaten at the World Cup.”

Argentina Wins

Earlier, Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain turned on a deflected pass and volleyed past Thibaut Courtois in the Belgian goal in the 8th minute in Brasilia for the only goal.

Argentina, which had 51 percent of possession, had seven shots on target to Belgium’s four. Argentina is a two-time champion.

“We’re back among the first four teams in the world after so much time,” Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella told reporters. “In a way, they have made history and let’s see if we can achieve a bit more.”

In stoppage time, Lionel Messi failed to convert a one-one-one chance when Courtois came off his line to block his shot. Belgium counterattacked immediately and Romelu Lukaku failed to shoot or fashion a chance when the ball dropped to him five meters from goal.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said it was difficult to see which team was the favorite today and Belgium lost on a “small mistake” that led to Higuain’s goal.

“We’re incredibly sorry we lost, I sensed that in the changing room,” Wilmots said, adding two of his staff were in tears. “I told them, ‘You guys were the youngest team among the last eight’” teams in the competition. “We have more future” than the others, he added.

Messi Chance

Messi shot over the bar with a free kick from just outside the penalty area in the 40th minute, and then two minutes later Belgium’s Kevin Mirallas directed a diving header just wide of the post.

In the second half, Higuain sprinted towards the penalty box with the ball and clipped the crossbar with his shot. For Belgium, Marouane Fellaini’s header went over the bar fifteen minutes into the half.

Other Semifinal

Brazil beat Colombia 2-1 and Germany defeated France 1-0 two days ago to set up the other semifinal, which will take place July 8.

Brazil’s victory came at a cost, as leading scorer Neymar fractured a vertebra in his back and captain and central defender Thiago Silva got a yellow card and will miss the next match. Neymar is out for the rest of the World Cup, robbing the tournament of one of its best players, Argentina’s Sabella told reporters.

“If a player of such stature is injured, it’s as though football is shedding a tear,” Sabella said.

Germany’s defeat of France means it has made the semifinals of 10 of the 13 World Cups.

The loss of Neymar will probably hurt Brazil’s chances of winning the World Cup on home soil. With four goals and a crucial score in a penalty shootout victory over Chile in the first knockout game on June 28, Neymar was living up to his star billing.

Neymar was fouled five minutes before the game’s end by Juan Zuniga, who jumped and put his knee in the forward’s lower back as they challenged for a ball.

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