Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Friday July 5, 21:00 GMT
Netherlands and Costa Rica take on each other in a tie no one would have foreseen. Netherlands, even though they are a very strong team, were everyone’s favourite ‘disappointing story’ before the tournament. People expected them to crash out. Instead, they harassed the World Champions in the first group game, and are now one of the favourites to emerge victorious from the tournament.
Costa Rica were in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside Italy, England and Uruguay; and naturally, they were regarded as the first team that would be going home. Instead, they topped the group- won convincingly against Uruguay and Italy, and drew England. The Ticos are the underdogs’ champions.
The knockout matches proved to be very difficult for the bigger favourites and the likes of Argentina, Germany, Belgium, Brazil and Netherlands themselves really struggled to get anything out of their respective games. Can the Oranje force deal with their opponents comfortably or will the Ticos have a surprise for van Gaal’s team? Here is a preview of the game.
Team News, Tactics and Predicted Lineup
Netherlands used the 5-3-2/5-4-1 formation against Mexico with three men in defence and two wingbacks helping the defenders while constantly running forward. It would be interesting to see if they continue with the same style against the opposition which also relies on a similar formation and plays the indistinguishable counter-attacking football.
Whether Kuyt would operate as a wing back or play in a more advanced position depends entirely on Louis van Gaal and one can expect him to tinker with his formation as he is not stubborn in his coaching and usually adapts his team according to the opposition. Van Gaal switched to a 4-3-3 formation after the half time against Mexico. He took off right wing back Paul Verhaegh and brought in Memphis Depay. Left wing back Dirk Kyut then featured as a right back thus switching from a 5-3-2 formation to 4-3-3.
A major set-back for the Dutch would be the absence of Nigel de Jong. The player sustained a groin injury that pulled him out early during their match with Mexico. He looks likely to miss out on the entire competition. He is a key man for the side and van Gaal would have to make sure he strategizes/ replace the player, in a manner that his void doesn’t prove to be a hole Pinto’s team could possibly exploit.
At the center of controversy in Netherlands’ late win over Mexico was Arjen Robben. The player went to the ground far too easily throughout the game and the late penalty which aided the Dutch win was also soft, if not wrongly adjudged. Robben admitted to diving in the match but insisted that the penalty which won them the game was not a result of simulation. The Bayern Munich man would want to make amends and try to influence the game in a more positive manner.The skipper of the team was very quiet in the game against Mexico, and Robben and he would both have to replicate their group stage form if they want Netherlands to have a decent outing against an opposition which has constantly surprised.
Netherlands would have to keep an eye on Joel Campbell, as the youngster is proving to be one of the best young talents of the tournament. Greece did well to mark him and made sure he didn’t get much space to do any damage. The Dutch would also need to neutralize his pace and ascertain that he doesn’t get much time on the ball. But as Campbell is usually alone up-front, would an extra man in defence be of waste? Costa Rica and Mexico are very similar in styles. Van Gaal would have to ponder on this and perhaps employ another man in attack, which would boost their chances of getting a comfortable win. But keeping the way the ex-Bayern Munich manager has operated till now, it looks likely that he will continue to operate in similar fashion- having two full backs and keeping the same attack. Depay and Huntelaar would probably be brought in as substitutes to come in and impact the match later on.
The Ticos have surprised everyone and they are playing with absolutely no fear. The biggest advantage with being the lesser favourites is that you have nothing to lose and it looks like all the underdogs of the competition are utilizing it to their advantage.
The South American nation boasts a solid defence. They have only conceded two goals in the competition and remain unbeaten. They have already created history by reaching the quarter-finals and would want this fairy tale to continue.
However, the major problem for Costa Rica would be that they are considerably depleted in defence, which is their strongest department. Óscar Duarte — who was red carded during the Ticos’ previous match will miss the game. Roy Miller would’ve certainly started in place of him but he too, has been ruled out with a left foot injury. Miller played Costa Rica’s final group game against England. Jorge Luis Pinto would probably go for Jhonny Acosta to fill the spot, but midfielder José Miguel Cubero also remains an option.
Costa Rica would hope for magic from Joel Campbell, but can’t rest the burden on the young man’s shoulder, especially if van Gaal starts 5 defenders. Campbell could easily be isolated then and be kept quiet in a fashion similar to the Greece game. The Ticos would take great motivation from the fact that a player of Robin van Persie’s ability was kept quiet by the Mexicans. The defenders should mark him and neutralize his danger. However, the main man who the Latin Americans would have to tackle would have to be Arjen Robben. Robben plays as a winger running inwards and switching to a second striker. His danger is always looming in the attacking third and if they can somehow manage to keep him quiet, almost half the battle is won.
Bryan Ruiz has looked in good touch and the Costa Ricans would hope the Fulham man can carve some magic in the heart of the pitch and either link up with the attackers to get his side up, or do the job himself. This has been a tournament where the goalkeepers have done extremely well and Keylor Navas has not managed to disappoint. He has carried on his spectacular league form and this quarter final tie could prove to be the ultimate test for the Levante stopper. He can very easily prove to be the difference.
The Ticos rely on counter-attacking football and even though their opposition plays in the same manner, they should persist with the method which has proven so successful. Keeping the ball away from the Dutch could prove to be very frustrating. van Persie and co. could easily get agitated and make a mistake- Costa Rica could then hit them on the counter and exploit it. Defensive organization has been a standout feature in this tournament. If they can mark van Persie, Robben, Sneijder etc. with efficiency, they could emerge victorious from the game.
Predicted Line-up (5-4-1): Navas; Gamboa, Umana, Gonzalez, Acosta, Diaz; Ruiz, Borges, Tejeda, Bolanos; Campbell
- Arjen Robben has the most goals (3), assists (1) for the Dutch and has also created the most chances with 11.
- Netherlands have been drawing at half time and winning at full time in their last 4 matches in FIFA World Cup.
- Keylor Navas is in the running for the Golden Glove and his save percentage is superior to anyone with 87.5%.
- The last team from CONCACAF to go further than the last 16 at the World Cup are the USA in 2002.
Player to watch out for
Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
The ex- Real Madrid and Chelsea man is the key for the Dutch. The winger plays as advanced as a second striker and would partner captain Robin van Persie and together spearhead the attack. He already has three goals and an assist for himself in this competition and could prove to be a handful for the South Americans.
Netherlands 2- Costa Rica 1
Expect yet another game where the underdogs stretch the big favorites. But with Costa Rica’s s forte- the defence- depleted, its going to be even harder for the South Americans to contain their European opposition. Joel Campbell is isolated up front and the Greece game saw him being tackled successfully. Costa Rica’s attack is not very potent and one can see the Ticos fighting, but unfortunately, can’t see them winning the game.