Van Gaalʼs Bluff Pays off

 

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 5th 2014)

The Bluff

Despite making an excellent save to deny Kuban Krasnadorʼs Marco Ureña Porras and keep his country in the World Cup a few minutes before the end of extra time, Ajaxʼs Jasper Cillessen was replaced by ʻpenalties specialistʼ Tim Krul. It was a very brave call by Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, especially as Krul did not have a good record with penalties. He had only saved two out of twenty for Newcastle United. Ironically Swanseaʼs Michel Vorm has a better penalty saving record.

Krul emerged the hero despite his gamesmanship, which worked. Van Gaal and Krul got into the heads of the Costa Ricans. Bryan Ruiz Gonzálezʼ penalty was weak and saved by Krul. They didnʼt work on the Columbus Crewʼs Giancarlo González or FCKʼs Christian Bolaños Navarro, but Michael Umaña Corrales – one of the Costa Rican-based players in Jorge Pinto Afanadorʼs team – was psyched out by Krul.

Not even the Man of the Match performance of Levanteʼs Keylor Navas Gamboa could deny the Dutch from the spot as all four of their penalty-takers scored.

Credit Where itʼs Due

Van Gaal was hailed a tactical genius, but credit where itʼs due, this was not the first time this tactic had been tried and succeeded. In 2004 FC Enyimbeʼs coach Felix Okey Emordi did it twice to the bemusement of his number one Vincent Enyeama in the African Championʼs League and it worked both times. Tunisiaʼs Esperance were astonished when Dele Aiyenugba replaced Enyeama for the penalty shoot-out.

Aiyenugba emerged the hero as FC Enyimba advanced to the final. Enyeama was back between the sticks for the final, but with penalties looming Emordi decided that a repeat dose was necessary. Aiyenugba was the hero again as FC Enyimba retained the Championʼs League on penalties. Tunisiaʼs Étoile du Sahel fell at the final hurdle to the same tactic. To try the tactic twice in a semi-final and repeat it in a final takes incredible courage and is worthy of great credit.

The Fairytale Ends

The USA reached the semi-final of the inaugural World Cup in 1930, but that was years before CONCACAF was founded. Costa Ricaʼs previous best was the last 16 in 1990. They bettered that and gave the Netherlands a run for their money. The match really came alive in extra time. Two minutes into the first period Robbenʼs corner was headed goal-ward by Ron Vlaar. Navas saved. He was hurt shortly afterwards, but recovered to continue.

A minute after Navas resumed Ureña received a throw-in from substitute Dave Myrie and cut into the box. He went down under Aston Villaʼs Vlaarʼs challenge wanting a penalty which Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov declined to award. It was third penalty appeal that the surprise package of this World Cup could and perhaps should have had – two in normal time.

After 23 minutes of extra time Galatasaray midfielder Wesley Sneijder slotted it through for PSV Eindhovenʼs Memphis Depay, who was just offside. He shot anyway and Navas made his customary excellent save. With less than five minutes left Myrie intercepted Daley Blindʼs punt forward, kicking on for Ruiz to head into Ureñaʼs path.

The man who replaced Arsenalʼs on loan Joel Campbell Samuels after 65 minutes dribbled into the area, but his shot was well saved by Cillessen to keep the Dutch in the contest. With two minutes of extra time left Sneijder finally found a way past the excellent Navas, but his 25 yard shot hit the post. A lazy shot by Schalke04ʼs Klaas-Jan Huntelaar went out of play allowing van Gaal to bring Krul on for the perplexed Cillessen.

Immense

Navas enhanced his reputation once more and will surely earn a move to a bigger club – Levante would be crazy if they let him leave for a cent less than his buy-out clause. He was absolutely immense. It began just after 20 minutes as a move involving Bayern Münchenʼs Arjen Robben, Fenerbahçeʼs Dirk Kuyt, Depay and finally Manchester Unitedʼs Robin van Persie on the left, but Navas saved well. The rebound was helped on to Sneijder by Depay, but Sneijderʼs shot was never going to beat Navas.

Six minutes later Ruiz was shoved in the back by Sneijder. Irmatov gave a free-kick which Bolaños whipped in, but it went out of play although AIK Stockholmʼs Celso Borges Mora was manhandled by Bruno Martins-Indi. Replays confirmed that it should have been a penalty, as the Feyenoord defender was impeding Borges, as the replays confirmed. Irmatov either missed or ignored the offence.

A minute later van Persie surged forward and slotted Depay in, but Navas was equal to the task again. With under ten minutes of the first half remaining Júnior Díaz Campbell who booked for tug on Robben. Sneijder tries free-kick from 25 yards out, but well saved to right by Navas. Five minutes later PSV Eindhovenʼs Georginio Wijnaldum poked it through to Robben. The Dutch winger put van Persie through on left of area, but Navas rushed off his line quickly to claim at van Persieʼs feet.

Intense

With just under an hour played FSV Mainz05ʼs Díaz found space on the left wing and crossed for Campbell who was pushed in the back by Martins-Indi. Again it looked a penalty, but wasnʼt given. A minute later when Feyenoordʼs Stefan de Vrij committed the same offence nearer the half way line than penalty area. That was given, but the opportunity was wasted.

With just over ten minutes of normal time left Kuyt crossed from the right, but found Dynamo Kyivʼs Jeremain Lens just offside. Navas saved his header anyway. A minute later despite suggesting that Robben had dived González was booked for tugging him off. Sneijder responded with a fantastic free-kick, which hit the near post with Navas beaten – he had earned some luck. And two minutes after that Robbenʼs free-kick broke to van Persie on right of area. His turn to make room to shoot was magnificent, but once again Navas was equal to it.

In added time Díaz who had already been booked was fortunate to avoid another card for tripping Robben on the right edge of the area. It was a dreadful tackle. With added time drawing to a close the Dutch had one more great opportunity.

Blind crossed from left. It deflected off Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissaʼs Yeltsin Tejada Valverde to van Persie whose shot beat Navas, but was miss-hit onto bar by Tejada on the line. Extra time came and went and Costa Ricaʼs dream was ended on penalties. The Netherlands will face Argentina in a repeat of the controversial final of 1978 which helped to prop up the disgusting dictatorship of the late and unlamented General Jorge Videla Redondo.

 

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