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In the Netherlands v. Costa Rica World Cup game that just finished (5 July 2014), the Dutch substituted their keeper at 120+1', clearly solely for the inevitable penalty kick shootout. I'd expect the starting keeper would usually be the one entrusted with the PKs, so why did they put in the backup? Because he's fresh and the starter has been playing for two hours? I noticed he's a couple inches taller, is that enough difference to put him in? A combination of those?

The Result:

The gamble worked, Netherlands won 4-3 in PKs with a shot to spare. The winning save looked like the couple inches of height/armspan did make a difference.

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The spoiler tags can probably be removed in a few days, but should definitely be kept for a while. –  Kevin Jul 5 at 23:07
    
A couple inches can make a lot of difference. Look at both shots Costa Rica missed, if the goalie had been an inch or two higher, he would have saved both. –  Seth Jul 5 at 23:50
    
    
This was probably a psicho move against a team that has never been on a stage like that, since neither of the goalkeepers was that good containing penalties... –  gbianchi Jul 7 at 14:45
    
During the game tv reporters speculated that this could happen because Krul had lots of PK training. In german newspapers vG is cited that he thought Krul was better for PK. He has a bigger range. –  PlasmaHH Jul 9 at 10:24

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

We cannot say for sure what the exact reason was, unless Van Gaal goes out and specifies why he's put in Krul instead of the starting GK Cillessen.

Here are some relevant facts tho:

  • Cillessen is 1.88 m whereas Tim Krul is 1.93 (as recorded on Wiki page for respective players). So there is a 5 cm difference in their height. How that difference reflects to their overall reach distance is hard to estimate however.

  • Cillessen is 25 years old with 71 and 13 appearances in his senior careers for club and national team respectively. Tim Krul is 26 years old but has 153 appearances at club football and over 50 appearances for the Dutch national team, at different age groups. So one would argue that Tim Krul is significantly more experienced as a first team goalkeeper, even though they are about as old.

  • Cillessen has reportedly never saved a penalty in his senior career, which obviously is not very convincing when your team is playing world cup quarter final and the game goes to penalties.

    Van Gaal only made the audacious move to replace Ajax keeper Cillessen – who has never saved a penalty in his senior career – in the dying seconds of extra-time, throwing on Krul after instructing the understudy to perform a length warm-up.

The same article cites some comments from van Gaal where he says that he had left Cillessen in the dark about his decision of changing keepers if the game looks like it's going to the penalties. Such a decision is risky, might look really stupid if it doesnt pan out as planned and unfortunately might leave players jaded even if it does pan out as planned.

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Interesting find about Cillessen never saving a PK. –  Kevin Jul 7 at 15:22
    
According to reporting in my country (argentina) Krul only save two in his carreer... –  gbianchi Jul 7 at 15:25
    
@gbianchi And he tripled that in this game :-P –  Kevin Jul 7 at 17:48

First of all, to a question like this - there are no correct answers. As we do not know what went through van Gaal's head, we can merely speculate.

One reason could be that Cillessen hasn't saved a single penalty during his professional career, as a dutch newspaper reported. However, if I'm not mistaken, Tim Krul hasn't got a very good record neither - so this is likely to be only a small factor.

Another reason could be the difference in height between the two goalies, but in my opinion and experience - that's not a very important factor. There are many important characteristics, but as long as you're taller than 1,85 m - height is not amongst the top three.

I believe the substitution was based on a mental factor and on preparation. It's likely that the coaching staff did not prepare Cillessen for penalties, to have him a hundred percent focused on the first 90 minutes (and extra-time). Preparing a goalie for penalties means placing some of the focus on an eventuality, which is not preferable. Instead, they probably chose to prepare Krul for the eventuality of a penalty shoot-out (reports say that Krul was informed on forehand, that he might be put on if it came to a shoot-out - but Cillessen was unaware that he was to be taken off). Krul had probably spent hours studying the opponents penalty-taking-techniques et cetera, and was thus better prepared (mentally, educationwise and physically).

Also, one must recognize the fact that Holland doesn't have an overflow of high-class substitutes. If they had, van Gaal would probably have put on some fresh legs during the extra time, instead of "wasting" a substitution on changing keepers.

Please note that this is only speculation, and that it's impossible to determine the truth without actually spending some time inside the heads of the Holland coaching staff. The theories above are simply my subjective ones!

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