LAST NIGHT WE waved goodbye to the Belgians and gave every last one of that Costa Rican squad a big tearful hug.
We’re down to four World Cup teams and (sniff) just four games remain at the greatest show on earth.
The Netherlands needed 120 minutes plus penalties before they could finally wriggle clear of Costa Rica and into the semi-finals.
The Oranje threw everything at the South Americans during a dramatic two hours, but Keylor Navas continued his marvellous form in this World Cup to, somehow, keep Holland at bay.
Navas was denied his moment in the limelight, however, as Tim Krul made it easy for all od us to write headlines. The Newcastle ‘keeper came off the bench late in extra-time and was unleashed to save two penalties from a Costa Rican side who were beginning to look indestructible.
The earlier game saw Argentina claim the first berth in the second semi-final. Gonzalo Higuain’s glorious snapshot volley allowing them follow the script of Friday’s quarter-final, holding Belgium at arm’s length to push their behind-enemy-lines operation into an even stronger position.
Not for the first time, we’re giving the gong to Louis Van Gaal today. Had Holland failed to get past Costa Rica there would have been serious criticism of the coach, but he sent out a team that created a host of chances.
And, when the chips really went down, he showed he had had the foresight to pre-plan a penalty shoot-out strategy and was brave enough to follow through on it by sending Tim Krul onto the field seconds before the final whistle in extra-time.
On paper there’s no great shame in losing to Argentina, but Belgium will board their flight home wondering how they allowed a flawed (admittedly with one untouchable talent) side shorn of a potent counter-attacking weapon off the hook so lightly.
Marc Wilmots talked an aggressive game pre-match, and his players were emotional after the final whistle. But during the contest they looked like a side lacking belief that they actually had what it took to knock out the two-time World Champions.
The weight on this pass almost made the entire football world faint yesterday afternoon.
What we’ve got to look forward to today
Nada. You might as well go hibernate until semi-final Tuesday.