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While dark horse Belgium supporters are out in full force, it is the heavily favored Argentina team who's single goal early in the match carries them through to the Semifinals. In the Netherlands and Costa Rica game, regular and extra time passed goalless, leading to a penalty kick shootout that the Dutch narrowly won.
Argentina v Belgium, 1-0
As The Independent stated, Lionel Messi could very well win the game on his own, and with four goals under his belt this tournament, he very well may have had too. But it was actually an early deflection off a Belgium player that Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuaín found the back of the net off a volley at the 8th minute. Argentina held on to possession for much of the half, breaking down Belgium’s chance to get anything going. Ángel Di María was rendered unable to play with an injury.
Belgium’s struggle continued in the second half, with chances to score stymied by an impenetrable defense and goalkeeper. Argentina also had several opportunities to take a 2 goal lead, and very well could have with Messi going one-on-one with Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois, but was unable to get past the charging goalie.
Argentina moves on the semifinals for their first time since 1990, when the 1986 defending world champions lost to Germany in the final.
Netherlands v Costa Rica, 0-0, PK, 4-3
Goalless through the first half and second halves, Costa Rica held off the Netherlands, though there were several chances to score on both sides.
With shots fired from either side, the second half ended just as it began, with neither side able to reach the back of the net. All seemed relatively quiet in the thirty minutes of extra-time until the last few minutes when both sides were unable make it past the oppositions goalkeepers. Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas has already tied American Tim Howard’s record of 16 saves in a single game, before heading into a penalty shootout.
Netherland's goal had been defended by Jasper Cillessen during the game, but a fresh goalkeeper, Tim Krul, was sent in to guard against the five penalty kicks that would determine the game. Krul blocked two goals, while the Costa Rican keeper Navas let all five in, causing the Netherlands to win the match, 4-3.
The final four teams to play are Brazil, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands. The host country, without star Neymar, will play Germany on Tuesday July 8. With a very narrow win, the Netherlands move on to the semifinal and face Argentina on Wednesday July 9. Winners of both games move on to fight for the world champion title on July 13.
Image Credit: INFphoto.com