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FIFA World Cup 2014: Gonzalo Higuain wins it for Argentina; Tim Krul saves the day for Holland

Sunday, 6 July 2014 - 7:58am IST | Agency: PTI

  • AFP

Gonzalo Higuain found form at the right time striking the winner as Argentina beat Belgium to make it to World Cup semi-final after 24 years as Dutch goalkeeper Tim Krul saved two penalties in the tie-breaker to take his team to the last four with a 4-3 win over Costa Rica.

Argentina and the Netherlands will play in the second semi-final with Germany and Brazil competing in the first semi-final. Higuain's powerful angular volley in the eighth minute sealed the match in Albiceleste's favour as thy set up a semi-final date with 'Oranje' brigade who had a difficult time in getting past a dogged Costa Rica. 

Winger Wesley Sneijder was twice denied by the horizontal but the Dutchman held their nerves during the tie-break as their four senior players, skipper Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt all found the target. Newcastle United goalkeeper Krul, who came in place of regular keeper Jasper Cillessen, anticipated correctly as he dived to left to save the shots from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana.

The Netherlands' Manchester United bound manager Louis van Gaal's masterstroke worked brilliantly as Krul was introduced in the last minute of extra time and hardly got the feel of the ball. 

In the first match, having been off-colour during the group stages, Higuain finally showed his class as he was quick to react to a pass from Angel De Maria finishing off with a powerful angular volley from the top of the box beating a fully stretched Thibaur Courtois. The early strike did help Argentina a lot as they were in firm control during the first half an hour as the European 'Red Devils' made some efforts in the final quarter of the first half. 

Argentina could have gone ahead in the 13th minute when forward Ezequiel Lavezzi took a crack at goal but was saved by the Belgium defence.

The European outfit got a chance to equalize in the 26th minute when a Kevin De Bruyne shot was punched away by Sergio Romero but Divock Origi couldn't reach to hit the rebound.

While Messi didn't find his fifth goal in the first half but he did keep the Belgium defence busy earning a direct free-kick during the fag end of the first half. His inswinging free-kick was however way over the crossbar. Messi could have scored in the third minute of the stoppage time when his solo run into an empty Belgian defence saw Courtois anticipating perfectly to foil his attempt and keeping his scoresheet clean against the talismanic Argentine in club and international football. The closest Belgians came to equalizing was in tyhe 42nd minute when Jan Vertonghen kept a perfect cross overlapping from the left flank and Kevin Mirallas arched perfectly for a header but it was just off the mark.

The difference for Argentian today was Higuain's mobility upfront which definitely took some pressure off Messi while De Maria was also active with his supplies in the 33 minutes that he was on the park before an injury led to him being replaced by Enzo Perez.

Higuain was unlucky as he could have scored one of the most spectacular goals of the current edition in the 55th minute when he sprinted down the middle getting the ball between Vincent Kompany's legs before unleashing a powerful rightfooter which kissed the horizontal before going out. His presence for 80 minutes was full of purpose as he looked like spelling danger for opposition whenever he had the ball in his possession. Fittingly, he got a standing ovation when he was replaced by Fernando Gago in the 80th minute. 

For Belgium, their main problem in the opposition attack third was poor show by their premier player and Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard. 

Hazard couldn't provide proper assists for Marouane Fellaini. The introduction of Romeru Lukaku did bring in some purpose but the Argentine back-four led by Pablo Zabaletta had a good day in office. He was well support from Ezequiel Garay, Jose Maria Basanto and Martin Demichelis. 

However Belgium's golden generation of players could be proud of what they achieved in this edition having failed to qualify for the tournament in 2006 and 2010.

Costa Rica rarely threatened and appeared content to play for penalties, their strong suit after goalkeeper Keylor Navas kept out Greece in a shoot-out in the last 16.

But their bluff was called and after Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt all buried their kicks, the outstretched Krul denied Umana to seal the win. The thrilling shoot-out came after a match in which goalkeeping also featured strongly when the Dutch hit the woodwork three times and were repeatedly denied by Navas.  Their first chance came when Kuyt squared it to Memphis Depay, who found Van Persie in the area but had his close-range shot well blocked by Navas. The goalkeeper then spared Ruiz's blushes, after his captain gave the ball away on the halfway line, when he stopped smartly from Depay.

Robben's frank admission to diving dominated the build-up but Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmanov had no delay in awarding free-kicks when he went down twice in quick succession.

And Sneijder nearly buried the second when he curled it past the wall, only for his goal-bound shot to be denied by Navas's fabulous flying, one-handed save.

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