Goalkeeper Tim Krul called it a “dream come true” after he was boldly brought on as a penalty-kicks specialist and saved two against Costa Rica to put the Netherlands into the World Cup semi-finals.
The towering Newcastle United custodian replaced Jasper Cillessen in the last minute of extra-time in an outlandish gambit by Manchester United-bound coach Louis van Gaal.
And the 1.93m (six feet three inches) Krul duly saved from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana, both low and to the right-hand corner, to win it 4-3 and set up a meeting with Argentina.
It ended a woeful Dutch run in penalty shoot-outs which previously stood at only one victory in five attempts at World Cups and European Championships.
Krul said the switch, which was kept secret from Cillessen, had been in the works all week as the Netherlands built up to the game in Salvador.
“I knew before the game that the possibility was there.
If we had one more substitution the manager said that he would consider putting me in goal and it happened,” he said.
“It’s a dream come true for me. I watched the penalties.
We’ve been preparing with all the goalkeepers and the goalkeeper coach.”
Van Gaal, who has already redeployed forward Dirk Kuyt in defence and used a cooling break against Mexico to switch tactics, was proud of his latest “trick”.
“We thought this through beforehand. Every player in my selection has certain skills and qualities,” he told reporters.
“We felt, all of us that Tim was the most appropriate keeper to stop penalties, because he has a long reach.
“We prepared Costa Rica’s penalties and they prepared our penalties as well and we’ve seen that Tim Krul dived into the right corner time and time again.
“So all of us are a little bit proud that this trick has helped us through.”
Kuyt, who played his part by burying his spot-kick along with fellow veterans Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder hailed a “great job” by Krul.
“I was not too busy with Tim because I was expecting that we could kill the game beforehand,” he said.
“But everything has been spoken in the team and we know that Tim is a very good penalty-saver. Let’s say that when he came in, I was not surprised.”
The Dutch switch called Costa Rica’s bluff after they appeared to play for penalties, a strong suit after their 5-3 shoot-out win over Greece in the round of 16.
Krul’s leading role came after opposite number Keylor Navas was repeatedly Costa Rica’s hero as he kept out the scores goalless over 120 minutes.
But Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto denied his players were intimidated by the late introduction of the imposing Krul and said shoot-outs often came down to “luck”.
“Maybe he’s a continued…