Argentina, Netherland advance to World Cup semifinals

ASSOCIATED PRESSJuly 5, 2014 

For once Lionel Messi didn't carry Argentina on his shoulders.

He didn't have to.

Gonzalo Higuain ended a four-game scoreless streak with an early winner as Argentina beat Belgium 1-0 and reached a World Cup semifinal match for the first time since 1990.

"Since the first game of this World Cup I said I was calm, that the goals would come. It came and at an important moment," Higuain said. "It's been so many years since we made it to the semifinals. Now we did."

Higuain came into the World Cup still recovering from an ankle injury that had sidelined him since early May. The 26-year-old Napoli striker looked out-of-form in the group stage and wasn't giving Argentina the edge it needed in the penalty area.

That changed in the eighth minute of the game in Brasilia, as he picked up a deflected pass from Angel Di Maria just inside the area and beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a half-volley toward the far post.

"Higuain has the class to put the ball where he wants it. There is nothing we could do about it," Courtois said.

Argentina's next opponent will be The Netherlands, which beat Costa Rica 4-3 on penalty kicks after the two teams played to a scoreless tie in regulation and extra time.

Krul lifts Netherlands past Costa Rica: Tim Krul came on as a substitute in the final minute of extra time and then saved two penalties in a 4-3 shootout victory over Costa Rica on Saturday, giving the Netherlands a spot in the World Cup semifinals.

The Newcastle goalkeeper saved spot kicks from Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana after the match had finished 0-0.

In another stroke of tactical genius at this year's World Cup, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal pulled Jasper Cillessen moments after the Ajax goalkeeper had kept his team in the match by saving a shot from Marcos Urena in extra time.

Krul looked super confident during the shootout, saving the second and fifth penalties.

When Krul stopped Ruiz's penalty, Cillessen, watching from the sideline, punched the air in celebration.

Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas had kept his team in the match with a string of saves in the first half and again in extra time. When Wesley Sneijder twice beat him late in regulation and again in the second half of extra time, the woodwork made the stop.

Sneijder hit the post with a free kick in the 80th minute and sent a curling shot over Navas and off the crossbar before the penalty shootout.

At the end, however, Navas could not stop any of the four Dutch penalties as Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt all scored.

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