Substitute Tim Krul saved two spot kicks as the Netherlands defeated Costa Rica 4-3 on penalties to move to within one game of a second successive FIFA World Cup final appearance.
Louis van Gaal's unusual decision to replace Jasper Cillessen in the 120th minute of a goalless last-eight tie was rewarded when the Newcastle United FC No1 tipped wide attempts from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana. The Oranje – denied throughout by a combination of the woodwork, stoic defending and Krul's opposite number Keylor Navas – will play Argentina on Wednesday for a place in the decider.
The Dutch monopolised possession but it was not until midway through the first half that they pressed Navas into service. On that occasion the Levante UD man denied Robin van Persie, who had been played in by Wesley Sneijder's cute reverse pass, and six minutes later he extended his right leg to keep out Memphis Depay's near-post shot. Navas came to the Ticos's aid again before the break, palming away Sneijder's free-kick.
Costa Rica were retaining their shape well, getting men behind the ball, but lone striker Joel Campbell was a peripheral figure. The pattern of play was summed up by the fact that the Netherlands attempted more passes, 247, in 38 minutes than they managed in the whole game against Chile in the group stage.
It continued that way after the break, though Navas was less involved as the Central American side enjoyed their best spell of the match, albeit without testing Cillessen. When Navas was beaten eight minutes from the end of normal time a post rescued Costa Rica, Sneijder rattling the upright with a free-kick. Navas then got down well to thwart Van Persie.
The Costa Rica goal was living a charmed life and Yeltsin Tejeda, stationed on the near post, was next to frustrate Van Gaal, deflecting Van Persie's strike on to the crossbar. That meant extra time, where the Dutch once more forced the issue but in a breathless second period were thankful to Cillessen for saving from Marco Ureña before Sneijder left the bar shaking.
The 2010 runners-up were not to be denied, though, Krul playing a starring role while his team-mates converted all of their penalties.