In the quarter final against Costa Rica, the Boys of Orange failed to score during regular time, for which Costa Rica’s very solid defence deserves every credit, taking the match into extra time and penalties. Coach Louis van Gaal made the unusual move to substitute goalie Cillessen for Krul seconds before the end of extra time. It turned out to be a stroke of genius as Krul stopped two of Costa Rica´s penalties and the Boys confidently scored all of theirs taking Holland through to the semi-finals. I felt that the Orange squad should have scored during regular time and that ´we´ were lucky not to suffer a lot- if any- offence action from Costa Rica, but I was relieved that ‘we’ were still in the tournament.
A few days later one semi-final had been played. A freak show, in which a superbly playing German squad absolutely thrashed the Brazilian team, that appeared terribly lost without their star striker Neymar and captain Silva, suffering a historic defeat of 7 goals to 1. Hopes for another epic semi-final were left unfulfilled as the dream of World Cup gold for the Boys of Orange deflated like a hot air balloon. Had the games in the group stages been exciting and on occasions surprising, this semi-final was a tedious affair, in which both teams played a slow, cagey first half seemingly playing in invisible mud. We were denied a spectacle in the second half up until the 70-somethingth minute when a bit more pace was added to the game, yet, we never got any real fireworks. During extra time Van Gaal made his last substitute taking Van Persie off the field and bringing in Huntelaar, meaning that Cillessen would remain on goal in the case of penalties. Perhaps Van Gaal took the gamble that Huntelaar- or anyone- would score in extra time and there would be no need for penalties. But with no goals and disappointingly little shots on target in 120 minutes, it was up to the individual players taking the shot to score and the respective goalies to keep the ball out.
First up to take the shot was Vlaar, which seemed an odd choice as, as a defender, he doesn’t have a great goal-scoring record and his not terribly confident shot was saved by Argentinian goalie Romero. Also Sneijder’s shot, who was the third to take a penalty, was saved, leaving it up to Cillessen to stop the fourth and deciding penalty. Cillessen did get his hands on the ball but didn’t manage to stop it and Argentina won on penalties 4-2. Penalties are always a naff way to decide a match and Vlaar missing his penalty might have cost the Boys of Orange a place in the final, but if it wasn´t for Vlaar, who played and excellent match neutralising any Argentinian attacks, it might not even have come to penalties.
I can´t really say that Argentina were the better team, but at the same time the Boys of Orange, just weren’t good and – just as important- not entertaining enough to deserve their place in the final. Argentina might have won all their matches, they didn´t have a terribly exciting run scoring just 6 goals in 6 matches and if they continue to play as they have done, they are most likely going to be defeated by an almost boringly efficient and organised Deutsche Manschaft. As Holland is facing Brazil in the ‘losers’ final’, all I’m hoping for is an entertaining match. Brazil may even win as the team and the country might need a victory much more than we Dutchies do.