World Cup 2014: Winners and Losers from Day 18
Day 18 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup featured two more round-of-16 fixtures taking place, with two more quarter-finalists decided as a result.
Mexico looked on course to end their long run of defeats at this stage as they led Netherlands moving into the final minutes of the game, only for a late turnaround to yield a 2-1 win to the European nation. Later on, Greece and Costa Rica needed a penalty shootout to send the latter through.
Here are all of the biggest winners and losers from the day.
Loser: Poor Penalty Calls
Netherlands beat Mexico with a late penalty, but earlier in the match, there should have been at least two other spot-kicks.
Ron Vlaar nearly took Hector Herrera's head off with a high boot—definitely a free kick if it was the other way around—but the referee ignored it. Arjen Robben also wanted a spot-kick for a foul by Miguel Layun.
Late on in the match, a series of dangerous attempted tackles by Mexico's defence could have easily seen the Dutch attacker go to ground, and they paid the price when he did finally win a stoppage-time penalty...although that one looked like the least-worthy spot-kick of the day.
Winner... Maybe: Getting to See What Cooling Breaks Are All About
The Mexico-Netherlands match featured the first official cooling break in World Cup history.
Pitchside temperatures reached the high 30s in degrees Celsius (100-plus in degrees Fahrenheit), as per BBC Sport, and Dutch boss Louis van Gaal stated that he used the opportunity to speak to his players and change the tactics of his side. As per BBC Sport, he felt that was key in taking victory against the Mexicans:
First I changed from 4-3-3 and then we created a lot of chances.
Then I moved to plan B. I did that in the cooling break - that is a clever way of benefiting from these breaks.
I knew we were going to have this cooling break. We trained for this, with Huntelaar and with Dirk Kuyt up front and long deep balls.
Loser: Mexico's Big Defensive Collapse
Rafael Marquez and his defensive partners were largely impressive in keeping Netherlands at bay for most of 90 minutes in the round-of-16 clash, but they failed to deal with a number of late attacks that ultimately cost them.
A corner wasn't dealt with, the first or the second ball, which led to the equaliser.
Then Arjen Robben finally won a penalty from one of his several runs infield off the right flank that caused flailing, lunging challenges around his ankles in the box.
Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa didn't do anything wrong all game, but he could do nothing about either goal.
In his analysis for BBC Sport, former Scotland international Pat Nevin said:
You have to feel sorry for the Mexicans—they were brilliant for the first half and maybe 10 minutes of the second.
You really believed that their goalkeeper looked unbeatable. But, however you have to do it, whether it is a long ball or technical stuff, you find a way to do it and that is what the Netherlands did.
Winner: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Ninja celebrations aside, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had minimal time on the pitch but made maximum impact.
The Dutch striker came on for a total of 14 minutes plus stoppage time, claimed an assist and then netted the winning goal from the penalty spot.
With just seven touches of the ball, per WhoScored.com, that must be the most efficient appearance of the tournament.
Loser: Oscar Duarte's Audacious Challenge
Costa Rica had gotten themselves in front, they were headed for the quarter-finals...but then Oscar Duarte dived into a tackle he could never win, earning himself a second yellow card and subsequent red.
It naturally upset the balance of Costa Rica's back line, not allowing them to press as many men toward the ball or keep the gaps tight between central defenders, and ultimately encouraged Greece to attack more.
Extra time down to 10 men was extremely tough on the remaining Costa Rica players, yet they survived nonetheless.
Winner: Greece Being the Latest Example of Fighting Until the End
Many times during the course of the World Cup, we've seen teams come from behind to fight for a point, a victory, to stay in the tournament.
Just hours after Netherlands left it late to turn defeat into a win, Greece kept pushing and eventually got their reward with an injury-time equaliser against Costa Rica, forcing extra time as a result.
It eventually led to them taking the tie to penalties.
Loser: Lack of Greek Attacking Options/Ideas/Movement
They might have forced a late equaliser, but on the other hand, Greece didn't do anywhere near enough to take advantage of a tiring Costa Rica side during extra time.
The extra man that Greece had was barely noticeable at times as the tempo continued to drop. They didn't stretch the game nearly enough and their main method of attacks continued to be crosses from deep, particularly from the left.
Add into the equation the woeful penalty-box technique from Theofanis Gekas and Kostas Mitroglou, and Greece only have themselves to blame for not finishing the match inside 120 minutes after playing 55 of those with a man more.
The biggest example of their ineptitude and indecision in the final third was when they had a five-on-two counter-attack...and they still couldn't even get a clear shot away.
Winner: Costa Rica's Record-Breaking Run / Netherlands
For the first time ever, Costa Rica are past the last 16 and into the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup.
They came close in 90 minutes, had to battle on through a gruelling extra 30, but then put away five perfect penalties in the shootout to take victory over Greece and create history for their nation.
CONCACAF finally have another quarter-finalist to celebrate—and yet still, somehow, even after getting this far, it seems as though the Netherlands are the biggest winners and will believe they have a route through to the semi-finals of the tournament.
Surely they won't also underestimate or be undone by Los Ticos?