What Did Krul Say To Costa Rican Penalty Kickers To Psych Them Out?
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When Dutch coach Louis van Gaal called substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul into the quarterfinals match versus Costa Rica near the end of the second half of extra time, it was a nervy move.
After all, the Newcastle United keeper had yet to play a single minute of World Cup football. What's more, the Netherlands' starting keeper Jasper Cillessen had put on a solid performance for almost 120 minutes versus a lively Costa Rican squad that flat-out refused to fold - despite an increasingly withering performance from the Dutch offense, especially in the last 20 minutes of regulation play.
It's pretty clear now that Van Gaal's decision could have ended one of two ways: viewed as either a coaching maneuver of sheer genius or sheer idiocy. With the benefit of hindsight, we all know how it ended. But what's not clear is how the 6' 4" Krul managed to psych out Costa Rican penalty kickers to the man and, what's more, guess correctly in every single instance the direction of their shots on goal.
In the 24 hours that have ensued, the online world has exploded with close readings of Krul's performance and analysis of the minute details of his actions on the field. One of the best and clearest takedowns of how Krul pulled off his 5-for-5 guesswork is from Reddit user LewisGilbert7, shown below:
No matter how you interpret Krul's pre-kick behavior, what's certain is that the Newcastle man took advantage of the psychological side of penalty kicks. After all, if history has shown us anything, it is that when a game comes down to penalties, you can rule out all common sense explanations for why a team or player ought to perform well. The teams and players that perform best on any given day are the ones who can get themselves to a place mentally where the other team can't touch them.
As Portland Thorns and U.S. Women's National Team defender Nikki Marshall explained in a recent interview with The18, "[In a penalty shootout] if you’re confident and you want to take a shot, then you’re going to take it. It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, how much experience you have, how much you play. If you’re on the field and you feel confident enough to take a PK, you should be able to make it every time."
From the outset of Saturday's shootout between the Dutch and Costa Ricans, it was clear that the Netherlands' Tim Krul had the psychological advantage. In fact, before Costa Rica's first penalty kick, Krul approached Giancarlo González, the shooter, and not only stared him down, but also appeared to say something to him. And he repeated this ritual before every shot that the Costa Ricans took - never wavering from his aggressive (some would say, too aggressive) behavior, regardless of the outcome of each kick. For instance, watching the replay after González scored on the first PK, one would think that Krul had made the save based on the way he yelled at González and the Costa Rican squad waiting to take their kicks.
The million dollar question is, of course, what Krul said to each player before their shot. Before Bryan Ruiz took Costa Rica's second penalty kick, Krul went so far as to approach the captain of the Costa Rican team and tap him on the shoulder as if to make extra sure the midfielder heard what he had to say. And, whatever Krul said appeared to work, as Ruiz proceded to place his kick directly into the path of the diving Krul - who, incidentally, guessed and dove correctly in every single instance (even the ones when he missed):
It turns out Krul's message was actually pretty simple. “I psyched them out,” Krul said after the game. “You try to do everything you can without being too aggressive. I tried to get in their minds. I watched them [Costa Rica] against Greece and studied them and I told the players that I knew where they were going to shoot to make them a bit nervous...It happened before when I played against Frank Lampard: I told him that I knew and I saved it. I just tried that again. I’m so happy it worked today.”
It would appear from this description that Krul's brazen confidence is the equivalent of Van Gaal's gutsy decision to play him in the first place. That is, had it not worked out, it would have appeared an act of desparation. As it stands, no matter what you think of the tactic, it will likely be viewed by history as an epic performance in goal - something akin to Babe Ruth's mythic finger raised to the stands that he actually transformed into reality with a swing of the bat. And, even if this is stretching (and it most definitely is), we at The18 have no doubt that Krul goes home to Holland an unlikely national hero, regardless of whether he ever plays a minute of World Cup football again.