If Sunday's World Cup action taught us anything, it's that you play until the final whistle.
Mexico watched a one-goal lead turn into a one-goal defeat after the 88th minute, while Costa Rica surrendered a 91st-minute equalizer. Los Ticos were lucky enough to win the penalty shootout a half-hour later.
So from now on, don't be surprised if every manager begins instructing his team to start scoring from the 90th minute on. Later than that would be even better.
Day 17 was one of the most dramatic at the 2014 World Cup. If we're lucky, Day 18 will be more of the same.
|Costa Rica||1-1 (5-3 pen.)||Greece|
|Date||Time||Group Winner||Group Runner-up|
|June 30||12 p.m. ET; 5 p.m. BST||France (E)||Nigeria (F)|
|June 30||4 p.m. ET; 9 p.m. BST||Germany (G)||Algeria (H)|
|July 1||12 p.m. ET; 5 p.m. BST||Argentina (F)||Switzerland (E)|
|July 1||4 p.m. ET; 9 p.m. BST||Belgium (H)||United States (G)|
Day 17 Recap
In the words of former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura: "Win if you can, lose if you must but always cheat."
Arjen Robben made the most of Rafa Marquez's challenge late in the match, but the Dutch fans aren't going to complain after it led to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's winner from the penalty spot in the 94th minute. Only Francesco Totti in 2006 registered a later winning goal, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Many El Tri fans feel aggrieved with the referee's decision to point to the spot, but Robben had a much more legitimate penalty shout denied earlier in the match, so it all evened out in the end.
Writing for Goal, Mexican football journalist Tom Marshall also had little time for those who felt Mexico were robbed:
The Mexico coach can complain all he wants, but the reality of the modern game is that Rafa Marquez made a mistake. He should be experienced and cool enough not to stick a leg out in that situation. That may sound harsh, but how many fans of the Netherlands will care about Robben’s exaggerated fall right now? And if Javier Hernandez had done the same at the other end, would El Tri still complain about the ref?
The truth is Robben tricked the referee and won the game for his side. He’d also been a thorn in the side of El Tri all afternoon with his direct running and should’ve been awarded a penalty in the first half.
Mexico and Herrera have been a revelation this World Cup and deserve all the praise that has been poured on them, but it was El Tri’s mistakes late on, not Robben’s theatrics, that invited defeat.
Mexico certainly owned the advantage for much of the match. They just happened to pick the worst time to fall flat on their faces. By going ultradefensive, El Tri allowed the Dutch to gain complete control and get the ball into the attacking third.
Wesley Sneijder's goal in the 88th minute was the result of the Netherlands' constant pressure late in the match. The fact that he was left completely unmarked was another of Mexico's costly mistakes at the end.
With the goal, Sneijder bumps his World Cup total to six, which is second most for the Dutch all time:
Louis van Gaal praised the Galatasaray midfielder after the match.
"Sneijder is one of the most on-form players in my team," he said, per FIFA.com. "He's the one who covers most kilometres and his technique is outstanding."
Van Gaal himself deserves plenty of praise. Everything he's touched has turned to goals, and that continued on Sunday:
More Van Gaal magic: Replacements have scored match-winner in last 3 games: Depay, Fer & Huntelaar, whose header also set up Sneijder— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) June 29, 2014
Michael Cox wrote for The Guardian that moving to a 4-3-3 was another of Van Gaal's masterstrokes as it helped the Dutch turn the tide:
Then, however, we saw Louis van Gaal’s tactical genius, switching from a three-man defence to a back four, as he had done against Australia in the group stage. Soon after Holland went 1-0 down he summoned another attacker, Memphis Depay, with the right wing-back Paul Verhaegh sacrificed and Dirk Kuyt switching flanks. Holland were now 4-2-3-1, with width on both flanks and Arjen Robben pushed to the right.
Immediately the situation was different. The Mexico wing-backs, who had concentrated on tracking their opposite numbers, were now forced back against out-and-out wingers, and formed a five-man defence. This opened up space for the Holland full-backs to bring the ball forward and, while Kuyt and Bruno Martins Indi are hardly the most dangerous full-back pairing, they helped increase the pressure on the Mexico backline.
Cox also felt that moving Robben to the right created many more problems for Mexico's defense.
This was yet another match in which the Dutch didn't play particularly well but still managed to win. For a country that often values losing beautifully over winning ugly, this ability to grind out hard-fought victories makes the Netherlands extremely dangerous.
They'll certainly like their odds against Costa Rica, which won a penalty shootout against Greece.
It was the second time that Michael Umana scored a penalty against the Greeks to put Los Ticos through. The first time was in his dreams, as per CNN's James Masters:
#CRC penalty hero Umana: "Last night, I dreamt, this, it seems untrue. I was relaxed because I dreamed it. 1/2— James Masters (@Masters_JamesD) June 29, 2014
#CRC Umana continued: "I dreamed it but I didn't tell anyone. I felt very confident." 2/2— James Masters (@Masters_JamesD) June 29, 2014
This match was evidence that defensive struggles can be entertaining and dramatic. You knew coming in that scoring would be at a premium since both teams had largely relied on their back lines to get them this far. Still, their constant back-and-forth made for a compelling tactical battle.
Bryan Ruiz put Costa Rica ahead in the 52nd minute, but their enjoyment was short-lived after Oscar Duarte picked up his second yellow card of the match in the 66th minute. Although Greece don't have a great attack, protecting a one-goal lead against them for over 20 minutes is extremely hard to do.
Costa Rica nearly pulled it off, though. Sokratis Papastathopoulos fired home the latest equalizer ever in the round of 16—the 91st minute:
Kostas Mitroglou nearly won the match on two occasions shortly thereafter, but Keylor Navas made the save on each shot. That about sums up how Mitroglou's career has gone since moving to Fulham in January.
Navas, who performed brilliantly all match, made the critical save in the penalty shootout that gave Costa Rica the advantage, as per Bleacher Report UK:
That allowed Umana to play the role of hero.
Costa Rica have shown in this tournament that they aren't to be trifled with. They've long since proven their 3-1 win over Uruguay in their World Cup opener was far from a fluke. With the wave of confidence they're riding, they won't be intimidated by the stage and grandeur of the World Cup quarterfinals.