Featured Matches
Previous
Real Salt Lake
Montreal Impact
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
AC Milan
Olympiakos
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Vélez Sarsfield
Estudiantes de Caseros
10:15 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Groningen
Aberdeen
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Sligo
Rosenborg
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
Stjarnan
Motherwell
7:15 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 2
Game Details
Shakhter Karagandy
FK Atlantas
12:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Shakhter Karagandy
FK Atlantas
12:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Hapoel Be'er Sheva
RNK Split
1:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
MyPa
Dinamo Minsk
3:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 3
Game Details
Omonia Nicosia
FK Buducnost Podgorica
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Haugesund
FK Sarajevo
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
Kuban Krasnodar
Sillamae Kalev
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 4 - 0
Game Details
Inter Baku
Elfsborg
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
IFK Goteborg
Györi ETO FC
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 0
Game Details
Lech Poznan
Kalju
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Liberec
MFK Kosice
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
Tromso
Víkingur Gøta
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
KS Flamurtari Vlorë
Petrolul Ploiesti
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 2
Game Details
SV Grödig Amateure
Cukaricki Belgrade
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 4 - 0
Game Details
Chikhura Sachkhere
Bursaspor
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
AIK Solna
Linfield
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 1
Game Details
Zimbru Chisinau
CSKA Sofia
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Shakhter Soligorsk
Derry City
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
FC Vaduz
Ruch Chorzow
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 3
Game Details
Hapoel Tel Aviv
Astana 1964
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 3
Game Details
Esbjerg FB
Kairat Almaty
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 1
Game Details
FC Spartak Trnava
FC Zestafoni
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
FC Groningen
Aberdeen
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
FC Zorya Luhansk
Laci
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 0
Game Details
Sligo
Rosenborg
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
Zawisa Bydgoszcz
S.V. Zulte Waregem
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Vojvodina
AS Trencin
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 4
Game Details
Asteras Tripolis
RoPS
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 1
Game Details
Hajduk Split
Dundalk
6:15 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 0
Game Details
ND Gorica
Molde
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 4
Game Details
Jagodina
CFR Cluj-Napoca
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
NK Koper
Neftchi Baku PFC
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
Ferencvaros
Rijeka
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 1
Game Details
Siroki Brijeg
Mlada Boleslav
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
Diosgyor VTK
PFC Litex Lovech
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Crusaders
Brommapojkarna
6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 4 - 0
Game Details
St Johnstone
FC Luzern
6:45 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
St. Pölten
Botev Plovdiv
7:05 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
FH Hafnarfjordur
Neman Grodno
7:15 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Stjarnan
Motherwell
7:15 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 2
Game Details
Real Salt Lake
Montreal Impact
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Vélez Sarsfield
Estudiantes de Caseros
10:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Sport
Paysandu SC
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
AC Milan
Olympiakos
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Next

Marcotti: A tournament to remember

World Cup Jul 14, 2014
Read
Jul 9, 2014

Van Gaal sowed seeds of Dutch demise

ESPN FC's Robbie Earle goes player by player to give Argentina their grades after a suspenseful semifinal shootout.

SAO PAULO -- Only four days ago, Louis van Gaal was a genius. He had engineered a precision shootout victory over Costa Rica, each of his chosen men scoring and his last-minute keeper substitution -- trading Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul -- working out to dreamlike perfection. In Wednesday night's shootout against Argentina, the Dutch looked far less masterful; so, too, their manager. Cillessen didn't make a save, and only two of Van Gaal's four shooters found the goal. It was like watching a potion wear off.

The harder truth is that Van Gaal had done hidden damage to his team. He overlooked the curse that accompanies all granted wishes. "It just goes to show," he said. A triumph that should have given the Dutch all the confidence in the world instead had broken them, starting and ending with poor Cillessen.

Cillessen reacted angrily when Van Gaal pulled him in those fateful dying seconds against Costa Rica. He helped carry his team that far, shutting out Los Ticos for 120 minutes, but now he was very publicly being told he was no longer good enough. In came Krul to play his brilliant mind games, guessing correctly on all five Costa Rican penalties and stopping two of them. Krul, not Cillessen, was the night's ecstatic hero. He was the man embraced by his teammates. He was the reason the Dutch were through.

This time, Krul and his happy history could not be repeated. A string of small failures -- a kind of cascade of bad fortune -- conspired to leave him on the bench. Bruno Martins Indi earned a yellow card just before halftime, so Van Gaal felt it was a risk to leave him in. There went one substitution. Then Nigel de Jong, a surprise starter following a groin injury, looked on the verge of breaking down. There went two. And then Robin van Persie had stumbled in extra time, slowed and close to spent. His collapse burned up Van Gaal's third and final move. "If I'd had the opportunity to substitute Jasper, I would have done it," Van Gaal said, but he no longer did. The man in whom he had shown so little faith was now his only hope.

Worse, the opposite goalkeeper was an emboldened one. Sergio Romero had not looked especially strong during the match -- punching balls he could have caught, looking tentative on his line rather than charging out for corners and crosses -- but he still had the belief of his manager, Alejandro Sabella, and that had made his heart as big as Cillessen's had been broken. Coming off the worst professional season of his career, Romero spoke after about how much Sabella's support had meant to him. Unlike Cillessen, he felt as though he was where he was wanted. He felt as though he was where he was supposed to be.

It was plain to see, the difference in confidence between the two. Romero wore that trust like a cape; Cillessen was dogged by doubt like a shadow. The entire Dutch team was. In a confusing half-admission, Van Gaal said he asked two different players to take the opening shot before he settled on Ron Vlaar, who, to be fair, had played a very strong game. It was unclear whether Van Gaal's first two choices declined his invitation or whether he changed his mind. But somehow he ended up with a central defender nicknamed "Concrete" taking his first shot.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero helped his team when they needed him most with two saves in Argentina's penalty shootout win over Netherlands.

While Vlaar set up the ball, Romero went through a practiced and exacting routine. He touched the post to his right, then he marched across his goal line, stamping it with his right boot like a man driving in stakes; he touched the post to his left, then he walked back across to his right post; finally, he stalked to the center of his goal and dug in. He looked as though he had just finished stringing an invisible barrier across his goal. More important, he looked as though he believed that he had. He stopped Vlaar -- kicking off an almost incalculable series of pressure exchanges between the two lineups -- and later he stopped Wesley Sneijder, as well. Romero was the definition of solid.

Cillessen never seemed sure what to do. He opened the way Krul had, talking to his first opponent, Lionel Messi, of all the players to try to rattle. The referee, Cuneyt Cakir, warned him off, and the crowd whistled in derision. That ended that. Lost, Cillessen did something strange and different each time out, assuming a succession of postures that never felt genuinely his. When Krul had pointed at his eyes and his head, he looked like a man who knew something that no one else did. When Cillessen tried the same trick, he looked like a man who was exposing every last one of his secrets.

Only on the last Argentine penalty did he come close, getting a touch to Maxi Rodriguez's finishing strike. A dejected Cillessen ended up flat on his back, his hands over his eyes. Including his four penalties against the Argentines, he has never stopped a penalty in his professional career; he is now 0-for-20. He is, to be blunt, not good at this very particular aspect of goalkeeping. Van Gaal knew that, which is why he took him out against the Costa Ricans. Unfortunately, that guaranteed that everyone else knew it, too, including the Dutch and the Argentines in equally problematic measures.

Jasper Cillessen knows it most deeply of all, never more than when he stood on the same line Romero had marked like his own personal territory. He was somewhere he did not belong. After Wednesday night, after this World Cup, it might prove the only thing about which he is certain anymore.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.