The decision by Dutch coach Louis van Gaal to substitute goalies at the 120th minute of their quarterfinal matchup against Costa Rica was considered by many to be a huge gamble.
‘What is he thinking?’ – was the internal thought of soccer fans around the world as the substitution took place.
But apparently Van Gaal knows best, as the trash-talking keeper entered the game cold and stopped two decisive penalty shots to lead the Netherlands to their semi-final matchup on Wednesday.
Tim Krul, the keeper who had been on the bench for the entire game, is not considered a penalty-shot expert by any means, but he had spent a great deal of time studying the kick choices of his opponents.
Van Gaal knew this and he also saw the psychological advantage of introducing a player with an apparent aura of expertise. It also helped that Krul verbalized his knowledge of the shooters tendencies before each kick, further psyching out his opponents.
The ruse worked and Van Gaal was seen as a genius tactician. But it could have easily backfired.
Both player and coach must have slept like swaddled babes that night, basking in the warm glow of a gamble paid off.