RIO DE JANEIRO – Tim Krul was informed of the plan before he stepped on the team bus for the stadium. Jasper Cillessen wished he would've known the plan so he didn't have to wonder what in the world was going on when he saw Krul warming up in the corner of his eye late in extra time.
The plan, both genius and devious, was to replace first-choice goalkeeper Cillessen with penalty-saving specialist Krul if head coach Louis van Gaal had one last substitution seconds before a penalty shootout in Saturday's quarterfinal against Costa Rica. Only Krul, Van Gaal and goalkeeper coach Frans Hoek knew about the switch.
The controversial decision worked beautifully. Krul turned away two shots, including Costa Rica's final kick from the spot, to send the Netherlands to its second straight World Cup semifinal. The shrewd move also could've ripped apart the Dutch team right then and there, inviting jealousy and, in the extreme, creating division among the ranks.
Historically, the Dutch have been susceptible to untimely rifts at the World Cup. But this team, like the 2010 squad that reached the World Cup final in South Africa, is not the typical Netherlands squad.
It puts the team first in hopes of delivering the soccer-mad nation's first world championship.
"I wanted to play in the penalty shootout. I was angry," Cillessen said. "But the coach made the decision. And that was better for the team."
Cillessen's reactions immediately after the substitution were understandably selfish. He kicked water bottles on the way to the end of the bench and had to be consoled by a teammate.
But after Krul dove to his left to punch away Michael Umana's penalty and secure a 4-3 shootout win, Cillessen was one of the first to join the celebration with Krul.
Cillessen later apologized for his outburst, and on Sunday before the team's training session at Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro, the 25-year-old had already moved on.
"The coach gives me confidence to play. That's why I'm happy," Cillessen said. "We've won every game. We're really happy. There's nothing better to say about him."
Despite Krul's clutch shot stopping, there is no goalkeeper controversy. When the Netherlands plays Argentina in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, Cillessen will be on the Arena de Sao Paulo pitch and Krul will be sitting on the bench.
As tough as that reality may be for Krul, he is willing to put the team above any personal goals.
"We've got 23 players and obviously everybody wants to play," Krul said. "It's been difficult. I've been training day in and day out hoping to prove myself to the manager and to have the manager show confidence in me and put me in a quarterfinal of the World Cup that's something to be proud of.
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"But there's no jealousy. There's nothing better than to play for your country, but Jasper is our No. 1. [Third-string goalkeeper] Michel Vorm is on the bench as well and we have to keep Jasper sharp day in and day out, and that's what we've been doing. That's why we're in the semifinals."
Krul and Cillessen said they would meet on Monday to analyze potential penalty kickers on Argentina's roster, but declined to discuss at length what they would be looking for.
And if the semifinal similarly heads into a penalty kick shootout situation, Cillessen said he's fine deferring to the specialist once again – provided he knows about it ahead of time this go-around.
"That's a pity at the end of the day, but it worked out very well," he said. "He [Krul] made two saves."