The whole world was shrouded in tension, suspense and mystery whether Brazil and Argentina would qualify for the semi-finals. And yes, they did qualify. Every one found out what they all had wanted to know about the quarter-final matches. The suspense ended, the mystery was unfolded and the tension got free.
Most of the football fans forgot that the quarter-finals did not finish. Who cares the last match after the matches of Brazil and Argentina are over? But what happened to the last match between Netherlands and Costa Rica is more precious than to any other match so far. In fact, the viewers and the spectators choked during the match at times.
Even 50 years ago Bangladeshis thought that those who had not visited Kolikata were still in their mothers’ wombs. It sounds funny now. Similarly, what it will sound in the future is unknown but at this moment I would like to say those who did not view the last night match between Netherlands and Costa Rica have not watched a game at all.
Earlier I had mentioned the sweetness of some other matches. Now they are no longer worth-comparing. Every minutes and even seconds was worth-watching for over 120mins. This was all because of suspense and mystery. A number of times Netherlands could have scored. They missed those opportunities unbelievably and unexpectedly.
On the other side, Costa Rica did miss some but compared to those, Ticos’ misses lost their significance. So many times the match reached its zenith but after a short pause it reached another mysterious height. And the grand hero who contributed the most was Arjen Robben followed by Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder.
Robben was really on his pinnacle. Only the invisible power was at work and in the way of the missed goals. But if you consider the reality and the rate of success, Robben did not contribute much because he failed to score any, other than the penalty shot.
On the other hand, the substituted keeper Tim Krul did contribute to the Netherlands’ victory. He saved two penalty shots incredibly especially the last shot. Actually, the history says Netherlands do not win the penalty shootouts. That is why in the stoppage time after the extra time when 1 minute was left, the keeper Jasper Cillessen was swapped with the 2nd keeper Tim Krul who turned hero after saving two penalty shots preceded by only one minute’s play.
Here lies the judiciousness of the coach in particular because such a goalkeeper was kept ready for any penalty shootout. And as the keeper is taller, healthier and more confident in times of penalty shootouts, he is really a worthy keeper for the penalty shots at least.
It is unwise to forget that both the teams were undefeated in their previous matches even when Costa Rica could not make a successful history in the previous world cups and at the same time, this defeat was only conceded after 120 minutes by penalty kicks. But the irony is that the way Costa Rica defeated Greece was the same way they were defeated by Netherlands in the penalty shootout. Similarly, Greek players missed two shots as Costa Rican did.
Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas has really performed unprecedented. He had a serious reservation. He never tolerated any ball behind him in the goal unless penalty kicks. He saved one penalty shot and the other one hit the bar against Greece. To save goals he took serious risks and were hurt at times.
Robben’s penetrating dribbles created quite a few corners. Besides, his stunning shots towords the goal could have impossible for any other keeper at times. But still the kicks were stopped and it seemed to have been only possible by the keeper Navas.
Offsides and fouls were rampant in the match. Ticos conceded quite a few offsides. This was a serious barrier for the Dutch from scoring quite a few goals. And none of these offsides was substantial, rather tiny ones. The referee from Uzbekistan was very proficient, diligent and judicious. The linemen were also keen and hardly missed any occurrence. Ticos conceded so many attacks near their penalty area but controlled themselves from committing any serious foul that could have triggered the referee in ordering penalties.
In the 37th minute Keylor Navas dived properly and averted the possible goal from a terrific freekick by Senijder from about 35 yards. The Tico keeper conceded a corner but still continued shinning with success. In the 52nd minute Robben dribbled up the ball right side but was sent flying through the air by two Rican defenders when Michael Umana was yellow-carded. In the 59th minute Robben flew with the ball and tackled it dexterously. In the 82nd minute Sneijder’s stunning shot hit the post instead and this was probably the best opportunity for the Dutch and the foremost luck for the Ticos. In the 90th minute Junior Dias attacked Robben down on the edge of the penalty box. Still the referee avoided a 2nd yellow card in the same match. What a save for Costa Rican Junior Dias from a red card!
In the 91st minute a point blank shot by Van Persie was deflected off the line by a defender and subsequently, it hit the crossbar incredibly and miraculously. And the most dramatic save for the Ticos was marked in the 92nd minute. Navas was out to save a dangerous ball and then Yeltsin Tejeda took the position on the goal line.
The ball passed a lot of players right before the goal and went to Van Persie who’s shot hit Teltsin Tejeda who cleared away exactly from the goal line most dramatically. Especially in the final minutes the Dutch had chance after chance but the luck did not favour them at all. Yet another great mystery occurred in the 119th minute. Sneijder swept a right footed shot but it hit the bar again. In other words, this was an epic end which led the match to be settled by penalty kicks.
Netherlands could not score most unluckily but it was all the same. And it should have been because in the recent world cups they were too hot but immediately turned tepid and soon got out from the 1st round, 2nd round or the quarter-finals. Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Franklin Edmundo Rijkaard and some others were out of the world cups and all went into the oblivion soon afterwards.
And it was good that Netherlands won the match 0(4)—0(3) in the cruel lottery of penalty kicks. Besides, in the sense of popularity and the world cup history Costa Rica were odd. Now the cruel world seems happier that the odd is out of the most important and beautiful part of the world cup ‘semi-finals’. Metaphorically ‘semi-finals’ is the garland which has been made with the finest flowers Brazil, Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands will look flawless, impeccable and a paragon of beauty.
The writer is Assistant Professor of English at Northern University Bangladesh.