It's Europe v CONCACAF when the 2014 World Cup round of 16 returns on Sunday, with the Netherlands taking on Mexico and Greece battling it out with Costa Rica.
The Dutch side have looked very impressive so far during the tournament, winning all three of their matches, but they'll be going up against one of the best defensive teams remaining in the competition in Mexico.
Greece also pride themselves on their defensive prowess, and they'll be facing the surprising Costa Rican team, who shocked the world by beating both Uruguay and Italy during the group stages.
The round of 16 already saw penalty shootouts and tons of drama on Saturday, so expect more of the same when the FIFA World Cup returns on Sunday.
|2014 World Cup Day 17 Schedule|
|Time (BST)||Time (ET)||Match||TV Info||Live Stream|
|5 p.m.||12 p.m.||Netherlands v Mexico||ESPN/ITV||WatchESPN/ITV Player|
|9 p.m.||4 p.m.||Costa Rica v Greece||ESPN/ITV||WatchESPN/ITV Player|
Netherlands v Mexico
The Dutch may have scored more goals than any of the other teams during the group stages but don't be mistaken—this team is built around solidity on the back line and reaction-based football.
Louis van Gaal introduced the 5-3-2 formation out of necessity, losing star midfielder Kevin Strootman to injury ahead of the World Cup. Arjen Robben moved inside to partner Robin van Persie, and the Netherlands have done most of their damage on quick breaks since.
Van Gaal confirmed he was only looking at results, rather than the style of play of his team, per The Independent's Tim Rich:
"This is the proof. We are not giving away very much and we are always creating. As a coach it’s nice to see that producing results because, if it didn’t, you would be calling for my head to be chopped off."
The team struggled the most in their match against Australia, as the Socceroos were content to sit back and let the Dutch have the ball. That's not the team's strong suit and a lack of space in the final third negates much of Robben's effectiveness.
El Tri will most likely utilise similar tactics, showcasing their ability to limit space and defend the goal in their 0-0 draw against hosts Brazil. Guillermo Ochoa is in the form of his life, and his back four has done a superb job keeping runners from penetrating the box.
The attacking partnership of Giovanni dos Santos and Oribe Peralta is a very underrated one, but the work they put in to open up space for other players is impressive. Mexico move well in space, and their full-backs can be deadly when they're at their very best.
The return of Van Persie could be vital for the Dutch, as the Manchester United striker is the team's best player when facing a defensive unit that prefers to sit back and let the play come to them.
Costa Rica v Greece
The 2004 European champions needed a late penalty to get past Ivory Coast, and as far as form goes, they're perhaps the least likely team to make a splash in the knockout stages.
But the Greeks have the kind of defensive identity that makes them very dangerous in a single head-to-head, as they are capable of completely shutting down the opposing team's best offensive weapon.
For Costa Rica, that's probably the duo of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell. Here's the issue—they don't have to be. Costa Rica have little to lose, as they've already far exceeded expectations. The Central Americans form one of the most cohesive units in the tournament, and on the pitch, it's clear they lack star players.
Contrary to what you might think, that's not a weakness—it's one of the team's biggest strengths, along with their excellent goalkeeper, Keylor Navas. Costa Rica don't blindly play the ball to their biggest star when the going gets tough—instead, they keep working the ball around, trying to find the best look.
Against Greece's defensive block, such a strategy will be key. By moving your players around and letting the ball do the work, it's possible to pull opponents out of position and find space where there otherwise might be none.
A team like Japan would just get the ball to Keisuke Honda and let him find an opening, something Greece are very comfortable dealing with.
The Greeks have yet to impress, and they'll have to open up their tactical plan in order to get past an opportunistic Costa Rican team playing to continue their Cinderella run.
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