World Cup quarter-final preview: Netherlands v Costa Rica
A quarter-final tie that few could have predicted prior to the tournament’s kick off, pits two very contrasting teams up against one another. Both had to toil and dig deep to overcome their previous opponents, but each fancy their chances now that they’re here.
Shaun Moran reveals whose Brazilian adventure is likely to continue.
Head to head
These two countries have yet to meet at senior level.
Grit and tactical nous have been enough to propel the Netherlands and Costa Rica through to a stage that only one of them is truly familiar with.
2010’s World Cup finalists are no strangers to the pointy ends of tournaments. The Ticos, on the other hand, are in unknown territory and will be sending the record-keepers into a further frenzy if they pull off a historic win at the Arena Fonte Nova.
Despite progressing to this phase, neither have had it easy since their convincing wins on Match Day 1 against Spain and Uruguay respectively.
Holland sweated it out in more ways than one in the last 16 against Mexico, and left it very late to score two goals and clinch a game that seemed to be out of reach.
Costa Rica’s concession in regulation time meant that they had to rely on steady nerves and goalkeeper Keylor Navas to get over the line against a plucky and determined Greece outfit.
The two sides are set to be without a number of crucial figures for the clash.
For the Dutch, Nigel de Jong will miss the remainder of the World Cup due to a groin injury. His compatriots, Jonathan De Guzman and Georginio Wijnaldum will be vying for a starting berth in the middle of the park.
Jorge Luis Pinto’s only concern will be the replacement for suspended Oscar Duarte after the imposing defender was sent off in the previous match. Jose Miguel Cubero, Johnny Acosta and Roy Miller are all potential candidates.
The big issue - firepower versus the wall
The surprise packets of the tournament could not have got themselves to where they are without their regimented and well marshalled defence.
Along with an excellent shot-stopper, they have denied some of the world’s best forwards including the likes of Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge.
Their next challenge, though, is something different.
Louis van Gaal’s team have scored more goals than anyone else in Brazil and will let loose a duo in Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben which are capable of tearing apart anything that stands in their way.
The new centre-back pairing will need to be at their very best to stand any chance of foiling the enigmatic and counter-attacking European forward line.
The game breaker
Costa Rica’s custodian Keylor Navas remains undoubtedly their finest player to date in the competition.
His performances in the group stage, and heroics against Greece in the penalty shootout, demonstrated why he is regarded as one of La Liga’s finest shot-stoppers from the 2013/14 season.
He skipped training on Wednesday with a shoulder problem, although he is deemed fit to take his place between the sticks.
The Oranje did eventually manage to breach the goal of Mexico keeper, Guillermo Ochoa, but will need to step it up a notch to get past the Levante custodian.
Prediction: Netherlands 2 – 1 Costa Rica
CONCACAF’s remaining side have utilised the trying conditions to aid them against their European rivals and will be attempting to do so once again.
The, at times, suspect Dutch defence can be unlocked but have the artillery to respond and will put an end La Sele’s fairy-tale run.