SAO PAULO -- Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal admitted he would have replaced goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul again prior to the penalty shootout against Argentina if he had not already made three substitutions.
Krul came off the bench in the final minute of extra time in the quarterfinal spot kick victory over Costa Rica and promptly made two saves as Oranje squeezed through.
But Van Gaal had already made his full allocation of changes in the 120 minutes and Cillessen was unable to replicate Krul’s heroics as Argentina advanced to a final meeting with Germany 4-2 on penalties after a dire game had finished goalless after extra time.
"If I could have substituted Jasper I would have done, but I’d already used three substitutes so couldn’t do that," Van Gaal said. "I subbed [Daryl] Janmaat for [Bruno Martins] Indi because he had a yellow card already and was often too late and wasn’t executing well.
"I didn’t want to take a risk on Nigel De Jong being injured, and he was the free man in midfield and [Jordy] Clasie can play going forward better than Nigel. I subbed [Robin] van Persie because he was exhausted."
It may have been a disappointing exit for the Netherlands but they exceeded expectations in reaching the last four and Van Gaal could not hide his pride in what they had achieved in Brazil.
"We had a fantastic tournament, as the Brazilian journalists have expressed," he said. "No one expected us to make it through the group, and after that we defeated Mexico, who are not easy to beat. Argentina are a top country with top players. Penalties are a matter of luck.
"It’s the most terrible scenario to lose on penalties. If anything, we were the better team, at least equal."
Next up for the Dutch is a trip to Brasilia on Saturday for the third-place playoff and a meeting with the host nation, which is still reeling from a 7-1 battering by Germany.
It is a fixture in which Van Gaal sees little value, adding: "I think this should never be played. I’ve said it for 10 years. But we will still play and we have one less day to prepare, which is not fair.
"The worst thing though is that you can lose twice in a row after a tournament in which you have done marvellously well.
"You go home as a loser having lost twice, which is not right. But I’ve said this for 10-15 years. You shouldn’t have players play a match for third and fourth because there is only one award and that is for the champion."