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Jul 5, 2014

Quarterfinals Day 2: Argentina strike early; Dutch break hex

Netherlands booked their place in the World Cup semifinals after defeating Costa Rica on penalties following a 0-0 draw.

Argentina reached its first World Cup semifinal since 1990 with its 1-0 win over Belgium in Brasília. The win secures Argentina's first World Cup semifinal appearance since 1990 (finished runner-up to Germany). The Albiceleste will play the Netherlands on Wednesday in São Paulo in its fourth World Cup semifinal.

The Netherlands reached its second consecutive World Cup semifinal after a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica, advancing after a 4-3 penalty shootout.

Here are five storylines coming out of the final day of quarterfinal play:

*Gonzalo Higuaín scored what would prove to be the game-winner for Argentina in the eighth minute, the only open-play goal that Belgium allowed during regulation at this tournament. It was Higuaín's fifth-career World Cup goal, tying him with Lionel Messi for fifth-most all-time for Argentina, and it was his first international goal in seven games since August. It was Argentina's second goal scored in the first 10 minutes of a game at this World Cup, the only team with more than one. Argentina is now unbeaten when scoring in the first 10 minutes of a World Cup game since 1958 (9-0-1).

Argentina snapped their quarterfinal jinx with a 1-0 win over Belgium on Saturday.
Argentina snapped their quarterfinal jinx with a 1-0 win over Belgium on Saturday.

*Belgium exits the tournament with its best finish in a World Cup since 1986 (fourth place). The Belgians managed four shots on goal Saturday after putting 26 on goal against the United States in the round of 16. Belgium's defense held strong following the early goal, not allowing a shot for 39 minutes between the 55th minute and the fourth minute of stoppage time. It was Belgium's first loss in the 22 games that goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been in net. It was also the eighth consecutive game Messi has been held scoreless against Courtois, who plays for Atlético Madrid in Spain.

*Entering the game in Salvador, the Dutch had failed to advance in all four of its World Cup games that went to extra time. Six-foot-4 goalkeeper Tim Krul was subbed on late for 6-foot-2 Jasper Cillessen in advance of the shootout. Krul saved two of Costa Rica's five penalty kicks in the shootout. He had saved two of the 20 penalties he faced over the last four seasons with Newcastle in the Barclays Premier League.

Dirk Kuyt and the Netherlands are one step away from returning to the World Cup final.
Dirk Kuyt and the Netherlands are one step away from returning to the World Cup final.

*Costa Rica is eliminated after having achieved its best-ever result at a World Cup, joining Mexico, United States and Cuba as the only CONCACAF nations to make a World Cup quarterfinal. Had they beaten the Dutch, the Costa Ricans would have been the second CONCACAF team to ever make a World Cup semifinal appearance (United States in 1930). Costa Rica is the third team to be in consecutive World Cup shootouts, joining 2002 Spain (which won one and lost one) and 1990 Argentina (which won both).

NetherlandsNetherlands
Costa RicaCosta Rica
(4) 0
(3) 0
ESPN3, ESPN FT-Pens
Match 59
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*Argentina and Brazil advancing marks the first time that two South American teams will play in the World Cup semifinals since 1970 (Brazil and Uruguay). The four semifinalists have reached a combined 21 finals and won 10 of the 19 World Cup titles. At least one of the four remaining countries has made the World Cup finals in 16 of the 19 total tournaments, including 15 of the last 16 (exceptions: 2006, 1938, 1934).