Holland and Costa Rica go head to head in World Cup quarterfinal match
by Ian Palmer
Two unbeaten teams will be meeting in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador on Saturday, July 5, but to many fans it’s seen as a mismatch. What we have here is Holland going head to head against the underdogs from Costa Rica. The Dutch took top honors in Group B with a 5-1 win over Spain followed by a 3-2 squeaker over Australia, and a 2-0 decision against Chile. They then handled Mexico 2-1 in the round of 16 by scoring twice in the last three minutes of the game, including a penalty in stoppage time.
Costa Rica played in one of the tournament’s groups of death alongside former World-Cup winning nations England, Italy, and Uruguay. While most fans and experts expected the Costa Ricans to be the whipping boys of Group G they shocked the world by winning it. The Central American country beat Uruguay 3-1 in their first match and followed it up by edging Italy 1-0 and settling for a 0-0 draw with England in their finale. Costa Rice then found themselves down to 10 men against Greece in the round of 16 and beat them in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 game.
This game will feature Holland’s relentless attack against Costa Rica’s tight defense. The Dutch may have learned their lesson against Mexico as they now know they can’t underestimate their opposition and sit back for most of the game. If they do, they could be surprised by the Costa Ricans. The Dutch have some excellent finishers in Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and Robin van Persie and now have an even dozen goals in their four World Cup contests.
Robben has three of these, including the winner against Mexico on Sunday, and has definitely been one of the event’s most dangerous players. The Costa Rican defenders need to keep him to the outside of the pitch rather than letting him cut inwards where’s he’s quite a lethal finisher. Sneijder has played well, but nowhere near the level he performed at in South Africa four years ago. Dutch manager Louis van Gaal isn’t afraid to make changes if he sees his squad playing below par and he usually makes his substitutions sooner rather than later, such as replacing Van Persie with Huntelaar against Mexico. The manager might have to play this game without the services of veteran defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong though as he suffered an injury early in the game against Mexico.
Costa Rica has been a big surprise so far and they’ve been successful even while facing adversity such as a red card to defender Oscar Duarte in their match against Greece. But even with 10 men and a late equalizer by the Greeks, Costa Rica found a way to emerge victorious and reach the semifinals of a World Cup for the first time in history. They scored all five of their penalty kicks in the shootout while goalkeeper Keylor Navas managed to save one of the Greek shots.
Duarte will miss the match against Holland due to a suspension, but the rest of the back four is still pretty solid. Their top attackers in the tournament have been Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell, who have combined for three of their side’s five goals so far. However, if Ruiz and Campbell are kept off the score sheet by the Dutch defense, it will likely be the end of Costa Rica’s Cinderella run.