BRASILIA, AFP - Super-sub goalkeeper Tim Krul was the hero as the Netherlands ended their penalty shoot-out jinx to beat Costa Rica and set up a World Cup semi-final showdown with Argentina.
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal stunned onlookers at Salvador's Fonte Nova Arena by bringing on Krul to replace Jasper Cillessen in the final seconds of extra-time after 120 minutes had finished deadlocked at 0-0.
But van Gaal's audacious move to introduce Krul paid dividends as the Newcastle keeper saved Costa Rican penalties from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to send the Dutch through into a last four meeting with Argentina in Sao Paulo yesterday. Holland had won only one penalty shoot-out in five previous attempts at major championships.
But penalty takers Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt all made no mistake from the spot to beat Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Van Gaal later said the move to switch keepers was pre-planned, saying he believed Krul would have a better chance of success in a shoot-out.
"Every keeper has specific qualities and we felt that he had a better reach, and a better track record to stop penalties," he said.
"We'd discussed it with Tim, how Costa Rica would shoot their penalties, their sequence. So he was prepared.
"Fortunately it worked out because if it hadn't worked out I would have taken the wrong decision.
"That's usually how it works out in football."
Yesterday's shoot-out drama came after a gritty duel which saw the Netherlands dominate for long periods without being able to score.
Sneijder came closest, twice hitting the woodwork in normal and extra-time.
The win means the Netherlands are set for another chapter of their World Cup rivalry with Argentina, which includes the 1978 final won by the South Americans.
Argentina advanced to the semi-final for the first time in 24 years after a Gonzalo Higuain strike secured a 1-0 win over Belgium.
Napoli striker Higuain lashed in an instinctive first time shot after eight minutes as Belgium's hopes of qualifying for the last four wilted in Brasilia.
Argentina's win snapped a run of two successive World Cup quarter-final exits following failures against Germany in 2006 and 2010.
It is the first time the South Americans have qualified for the last four since the 1990 finals in Italy.