Confident Cillessen

Thankfully for Holland, Jasper Cillessen is a better goalkeeper than he is an actor.

Holland's No. 1 must have anticipated the question, but his stiff body language betrayed him at a press conference this morning (Singapore time).

"My confidence? Why would it affect my confidence?" he replied, when asked if his self-belief had suffered after being substituted in the 120th minute in a World Cup quarter-final.

"Of course it didn't affect my confidence."

But of course it did. The Ajax goalkeeper smiled awkwardly in the press conference at Holland's training camp in Rio de Janeiro.

At that moment, there was an urge not to criticise, but to console. In a room filled mostly with Dutch journalists and officials, he found many familiar friendly faces feeling sorry for him.

"I didn't know Tim Krul was going to come on for me. The substitution was a huge surprise to me," he said, practically sighing at the chance to speak truthfully.

"I wanted to play everything. I wanted to play the penalty shootout but the coach made a decision that Tim was better than me and I had to accept it."

"I saw him warming up towards the end. So it did cross my mind that I might be substituted, but only if I got injured."

Cillessen needed a hug. Reassurance that everything was going to be all right, that he hadn't been humiliated in front of half a billion disbelieving TV viewers.

The tension here at the Flamengo Stadium was palpable.

A parang couldn't have chopped its way through the atmosphere. The man who replaced him - who was ordered to not only usurp his colleague but keep him in the dark - sat beside him in the small, dingy room.

Louis van Gaal acquired a taste for the theatrical years ago, but this was the most macabre spectacle, forcing the audience to share in the discomfort.


He would have delighted in pairing the two together, and offering them on an Oranje platter for the voracious media. Neither goalkeeper looked particularly comfortable. Krul shifted uneasily in his seat.

"The coach did tell me beforehand that if he had a substitute left, he would use me for the penalty shootout," the Newcastle custodian conceded.

"I had studied Costa Rica's penalties against Greece. I told them I knew where all their penalties were going. I had to try and psyche them out because I was under pressure as well.

"But no one had any idea. The whole bench was confused, both benches were confused. The look on the Costa Rica coach's face was priceless. It was all about psyching out the other team and having an impact and it worked."

For most coaches, ordinary men not blessed with the unshakeable confidence and inflated ego of van Gaal, an agonising selection dilemma lies ahead of the semi-final against Argentina.

The first-choice goalkeeper excelled over 120 minutes, making a superb save at the death to keep Holland in the match. His deputy then came on and became a national hero in five minutes.

Now they both want to play, and made no secret of their ambitions. It was awkward.

"There's no jealousy between me and Jasper," Krul claimed, convincing no one.

"I'd love to play in the semi-final, but Jasper is our No. 1, so it's up to me to keep him sharp. That's why we're in the semi-finals of the World Cup.

"I keep training day in and day out while the coach chooses Jasper, but he showed great confidence in me to bring me in for a World Cup quarter-final. There's nothing better than playing for your country."

Now the coach must choose between them.

Cillessen registered his displeasure when he was substituted, kicking water bottles across the dugout yesterday morning.

He admitted that he apologised in the dressing room immediately after the game. He stayed on message. Everyone in the Dutch camp focuses only on van Gaal's bigger picture. Sentiment is always a distant second to winning.

For the second time in a week, a Dutch goalkeeper is going to be left bitterly disappointed.

I want to apologise. I've already done to Frans Hoek (the Dutch goalkeeper coach), and I will do so to the whole squad. I knew nothing about this. The change was a shock to my system.

- Holland goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, apologising for his petulant outburst after he was substituted by Tim Krul for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica


This article was first published on July 7, 2014.
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