SALVADOR, Brazil – On the same ground where Robin van Persie's spectacular diving header earned him the nickname the Flying Dutchman, the Netherlands striker fell flat against Costa Rica on Saturday.
Van Persie missed two chances from close range in stoppage time in a 0-0 draw before the Dutch prevailed 4-3 in penalty shootout to set up a World Cup semifinal match against Argentina.
"Those misses could have been very costly," Van Persie said. "But our win is all that matters now."
One of those chances was heart stopping.
The ball was crossed from the left, two Dutch players failed to get to it, and it fell to Van Persie close to the back post. He shot, but the ball hit a Costa Rican defender on the goal line, ricocheted from the crossbar and bounced out.
"It's bizarre," Van Persie said. "We had too many chances. You have to stay strong and focused in such circumstances. We had to work hard to win this game."
While Van Persie sputtered, teammate Arjen Robben was a constant threat against a dogged Costa Rica squad as he left behind a diving controversy surrounding the Netherlands' second-round victory over Mexico.
Van Persie and Robben both scored twice in Salvador in the 5-1 win over Spain at the start of the tournament and have three goals each so far. Van Persie's flying header looped over a stranded Iker Casillas on Spain's goal and ended up in the net — arguably the most spectacular goal so far in the tournament.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said the missed chances could have backfired, with Costa Rica nearly taking a lead in last minutes of extra time.
"I don't know how many opportunities we had in the game, but that goes to show that scoring a goal is crucial in the game of football," Van Gaal said. "If you miss so many opportunities, the opponent could walk away and beat you, out of nowhere."