National soccer team will be welcomed as champions Tuesday

The amazing journey of the national soccer team came to an end Saturday, but most Costa Ricans see reaching the World Cup quarter finals as a great victory.

The team will be welcomed home Tuesday with a celebration at Parque la Sabana and perhaps a motorcade up Paseo Colon. Elsewhere in the world, the team that defeated some of Europe’s best is considered a tournament standout.

The Costa Rican team played two regular periods and two periods of extra time without surrendering a point Saturday. The match with the Netherlands came down to penalty shots.

Dutch goalie Tim Krul, who came off the bench late in extra time and played in the shootout, dove to his left to stop penalty shots by Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umaña. Krul is taller than starting goalie Jasper Cillessen.

The Dutch, who converted all four of their penalty shots, dominated the match in regulation and extra time.

But Costa Rica’s goalie Keylor Navas made a series of outstanding saves, stopping star striker Robin van Persie at least twice. Van Persie also was denied by midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda, who blocked an attempt while standing on the goal line.

Another dangerous Dutch player, Wesley Sneijder, was inches away from scoring. But his shot in regulation hit the post and another in extra time bounced off the crossbar.

“We had a lot of chances, but it didn’t go in,” Krul said on Dutch television. “Then I come in, stop two penalties and here we are.”

Argentina qualified for its first trip to the World Cup semifinals in nearly a quarter-century Saturday.

The Argentines knocked off Belgium, 1-0, in Brasilia. Striker Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal, firing the ball into the corner of the net less than 10 minutes into the match.

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi had a chance to make it 2-0 toward the end of the game, but goalie Thibaut Courtois made the save.

Argentina now heads to its first World Cup semifinal since 1990, after being eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010.

“We produced a very complete match,” Messi said. “We weren’t able to create that many chances, but they didn’t make that many clear chances, either.”

The Argentines are seeking their third World Cup championship, after wins in 1978 and 1986. In 1986, they were led by Diego Maradona, a man widely considered the greatest soccer player ever behind Brazilian legend Pele.

Germany and Brazil emerged victorious in the World Cup quarterfinals Friday, setting up an epic battle in the semifinals between what many believe are the world’s top two football powers.

In Friday’s first game, Germany beat European rival France, 1-0, in a hard-fought match in Rio de Janeiro.

German defender Mats Hummels scored the game’s only goal in the 13th minute of the first half. He leaped over a French defender on a free kick by Toni Kroos and guided a header into the net.

Germany is seeking its fourth World Cup championship. It has not won one since West Germany captured its third championship in 1990.

In Fortaleza Friday, five-time champion Brazil benefited from goals by two defenders, Thiago Silva and David Luiz, to beat Colombia, 2-1.

For Brazil, the win came at a huge price. Neymar, who leads his team with four goals, took a hit in the waning minutes and had to be hospitalized.

His status for the semifinal against Germany on Tuesday is doubtful, according to Brazil’s coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

“We lost Neymar on that play and based on what I’ve seen, I think it’s going to be tough for him to play,” Scolari said. “He was kneed in his lower back, and he was crying out in pain, and I can guarantee it won’t be easy for him to recover based on what the doctor told us.  Let’s hope everything goes well.”

Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002. It lost to Uruguay in the championship game in Rio de Janeiro in 1950, the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup.

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