Tim Krul substitution: Louis van Gaal kept Krul intentions quiet – but even jilted keeper Jasper Cillessen approves

Dutch manager made the unprecedented substitution before the shootout

Salvador

A “golden grip” was how one Dutch newspaper headline summed up Tim Krul’s penalty-saving feats in Salvador on Saturday night, but it might just have easily talked about a golden gamble.

The decision of Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal to send Krul on for the quarter-final shoot-out against Costa Rica proved quite a masterstroke but even among his players, it came as a surprise. Indeed it seems that only one player had any inkling of what Van Gaal had in store. As Arjen Robben put it afterwards: “Nobody knew about what he was going to do apart from one goalkeeper.”

Krul himself had found out “just before the game”. The Newcastle United man, whose saves from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana earned the Oranje a 4-3 shoot-out triumph and a place in Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final against Argentina, explained: “We discussed it before the game. He [Van Gaal] said if we had one more substitution he would use me. To make a decision like this with two minutes to go is incredible.”

For Van Gaal, this was not a decision made on gut instinct but something he had been working towards for weeks with his backroom staff. The Netherlands have a history of penalty heartache, having lost four of their previous five shoot-outs in major tournaments – including semi-final defeats at France 98 and Euro 2000. To reverse the tide, Van Gaal left nothing to chance. The order of takers was decided in advance while the idea of using Krul originated with Frans Hoek, the squad’s goalkeeping coach. “Frans Hoek told the manager my qualities and he believed in me,” explained Krul. “We were studying every player for the last seven weeks.” They even planned the move to unsettle the Costa Ricans with Krul confronting their takers and telling them he knew where they would shoot – and he was obviously not lying as he dived the right way for all five.

 

“I don’t think I did anything wrong,” he said at a press conference in Rio yesterday. “I did nothing crazy. I didn’t shout in an aggressive manner. I told them I knew where they were going because I had analysed it.  I was trying to get in their heads and it worked.”

Van Gaal’s decision earned an unhappy reaction from Cillessen who booted a water bottle as he left the pitch. The coach had not told him as he “did not want it to distract him” and Cillessen apologised for his behaviour yesterday. “I shouldn’t have done that, that was just my emotions,” said the Ajax player, who will resume in goal against Argentina. “It is a pity I wasn’t told before but it worked very well,” he added.

All in all, it was another night for goalkeepers at the Arena Fonte Nova as the Dutch had 15 shots on goal to their opponents’ three but could find no way past the brilliant Kaylor Navas during 120 goalless minutes. Los Ticos warrant rich praise for conceding just twice in five games on their historic run – “The great wall that questioned the world order” was how La Nacion newspaper put it – and they might even have nicked victory in extra time when substitute Marcos Urema brought a good save out of Cillessen.

Read more: Van Gaal 'proud and relieved' that swap paid off
Netherlands 0 Costa Rica 0 match report
'Krul swap was premeditated plan' says Van Gaal

It was a key stop but Cillessen had never saved a penalty in his career. Krul had saved only two out of 20, but Van Gaal preferred his “longer reach”. He was proved right.

It is big coaches who take big decisions and on Saturday night, Manchester United fans could have been forgiven for smiles almost as wide as those on Dutch faces. “It is an honour for us to have a coach like [Van Gaal],” said Krul as his team-mates lined up to hail the impact of the future United manager.

“He is just one of a kind, in his way of working and especially the tactical discipline he has got for the team,” said midfielder Nigel de Jong who added that he hopes to be fit to face Argentina after missing Saturday’s game with a groin problem.

This is clearly a Netherlands team united in a belief in their manager’s methods. Reflecting on his tireless shift in a right wing-back role, Dirk Kuyt added: “This is the power of the manager. It is not easy to create a team like this, but if you want to do something, you have to go in the same direction and he is the perfect manager to make that happen. He has convinced the players that his way can be successful and I think that is the key.” To reach a second World Cup final in four years they must now stop Lionel Messi but on Saturday’s evidence, Van Gaal may well know a way.

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