Brave Pirmin Blaak emerges Netherlands' shootout hero

'Blaak deserved Player of the Match award' (2:06)

Debayan Sen and Jonathan Selvaraj share their thoughts on two contrasting semi-final matches. (2:06)

When Tim Brand of Australia backed into Netherlands goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak during his team's fourth shot of the semi-final shootout at the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, the umpire blew in favour of Blaak for an obstruction. It meant the score was now 2-1 in favour of the reigning champions Australia, but Netherlands had the chance to equalise.

With fortunes having swung wildly in the last 30 minutes at the Kalinga Stadium, it was natural for Blaak to let rip a primal scream as he faced the southern stand and pumped his fists.

Blaak had prepared for this moment meticulously with his manager Taco van den Honert, jotting down the strengths and patterns of the Australians in recent shootouts. He had it all on a sheet of paper that he put to rest by the corner of the pitch before stepping up to the first shot from Australian captain Aran Zalewski.

Surely, all that preparation came in handy?

"Not really, all of that went out of the window with pretty much the third shot," Blaak confessed once the dust had settled, and Netherlands clinched a nerve-jangling 4-3 win in the shootout. In doing so, they also ended Australia's 17-match winning streak at the World Cup since 2010.

Goalkeepers usually lead the team with their voice, but on the night of the shootout, Blaak was doubling up as an emotional anchor, maintaining eye contact with his team through his helmet grille.

Australia missed first, but came back to lead 2-1. It was at this stage that Blaak really got his inner mongrel going, first with a quick press on Brand to extract a foul, and then stabbing his post in an attempt to distract Jake Whetton for the last of the five shots.

Whetton would score, but so would Thijs van Dam. Pointing to Blaak, van Dam ran over to his team-mate and the two men bumped their chests and embraced.

With the order of shots reversed for sudden death, it was up to Jeroen Hertzberger to score for the second time in the shootout, which the experienced striker duly did. A quick 'I-can't-hear-you' gesture to the crowd, followed by a pointed finger to acknowledge Blaak as he wheeled away.

Blaak stepped up to face Zalewski, who had blazed his first attempt over the bar. In sudden death, Zalewski's legs went to jelly in the closing seconds as he tried to figure out the best course of action before the mandatory eight seconds.

Blaak needed no second invitation, sweeping the ball away to safety, and helping Netherlands overcome the hurt of having lost the home final 6-1 to Australia four years ago.

The team knew who they owed it all to, and so did the Kalinga Stadium. In a match where there was nothing to choose between the precision of the Dutch, and the fighting spirit of the Australians, the margin was all down to the courage of Pirmin Blaak.