Costa Rica (National Football)

Key Battles That Will Shape Costa Rica's Clash with Netherlands

Karla Villegas GamaFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

Key Battles That Will Shape Costa Rica's Clash with Netherlands

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Costa Rica have amazed the world after holding off teams as powerful as England and Italy. Now, Los Ticos want to surprise the Netherlands.

    Coach Jorge Luis Pinto has done a fantastic job with this side, which have qualified for the quarterfinals for the first time ever after defeating Greece in the penalty kicks.

    Los Ticos play with a 5-4-1 system, which allows them to defend tightly, while they take advantage of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell's speed and dribbling skills.

    However, the quarterfinals will not be easy, especially because Louis van Gaal is one of the best strategists in world football.

    He proved it against Mexico, when he changed his usual 3-5-2 formation to a 4-3-3 that ultimately helped him to tilt the scale in his favor.

    Let's take a look at the key battles of what promises to be a very interesting game.

Keylor Navas vs. Robin Van Persie

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    There is no doubt that Keylor Navas has been atop and that his four performances have been key for Costa Rica.

    However, the Levante goalkeeper injured his shoulder during the round of 16 and has not been training at the same level, as reported by the Daily Mirror's Ben Burrows.

    Robin van Persie needs to take advantage of every opportunity he has inside the box, because Costa Rica's five-man back line will be hard to break.

    Against Mexico, the Manchester United forward couldn't score despite having a couple of clear chances.

    Van Persie hasn't yet matched his performance against Spain in the opening game of Group B, and with Navas in goal, he better come to the pitch inspired.

Michael Umana vs. Arjen Robben

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Michael Umana has proved how valuable experience can be in games like these.

    The Saprissa defender, who is 31 years old, has been playing for Los Ticos since 2004, but it seems like he is in his best moment.

    Umana became a key man vs. Italy. He had 85 percent pass accuracy, won 75 percent of the tackles in which he was involved and made three interceptions, as per Squawka.com.

    Now, he has a titanic task in front of him. Umana needs to stop Arjen Robben to keep his side safe.

    Robben's speed and dribbling skills have put every single defender he has faced in distress. He is not only elusive and fast, he also knows how and when to shoot.

    If Umana manages to neutralize him, Costa Rica will have a huge advantage.

Giancarlo Gonzalez vs. Wesley Sneijder

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Giancarlo Gonzalez is the leader of the defensive line. His strength, fierceness and technique have helped him to hold off strikers the likes of Mario Balotelli and Edinson Cavani.

    Against the Netherlands, Gonzalez needs to pay special attention to Wesley Sneijder, as the Galatasary midfielder has become a key man when it comes to feeding balls to the attacking zone.

    Sneijder had a slow start vs. Spain, but little by little has gotten back to his old self. He scored the equalizer against Mexico and completed 85 percent of the passes he sent, via Squawka.com.

    Gonzalez might be busy trying to put pressure on Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, as coach Jorge Luis Pinto will probably send two of his players to cover them, but he needs to stay focused.

Celso Borges vs. Dirk Kuyt

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Celso Borges has been a beast in the midfield. His ball possession and the intelligence to distribute it have been key in Costa Rica's few goal opportunities.

    FIFA.com reports that he has created three goal chances, while he has had 81 percent passing accuracy and has recovered 16 balls.

    Borges becomes a fantastic link between lines. He can play a more defensive role when his team is in distress, or join the attacking zone to feed balls.

    Dirk Kuyt has been a thriving force for the Dutch since he left the bench. He missed the first two matches but against Chile and Mexico he became a threat.

    Kuyt has had two deliveries in the penalty area and has also made two solo runs into the box, as per FIFA.com.

     

Bryan Ruiz vs. Bruno Martins Indi

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Bryan Ruiz has scored twice so far. He is a very unbalancing attacking midfielder, who can create plays or finish them with the same ability.

    Ruiz can shoot from outside the box, while his aerial game is superb. He is strong, fast and has made a great partnership with Joel Campbell.

    He will try to get past Bruno Martins Indi, who returned for the round of 16 after suffering a concussion against Australia.

    Martins Indi is one of the strongest footballers on the team. His body build will be his most valuable asset when trying to stop Ruiz.

     

Joel Campbell vs. Ron Vlaar

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    Joel Campbell has not been as sharp as in the first couple of games, but this is the perfect clash to turn things around.

    The Dutch defense has a hard time when it comes to through balls and diagonals, as demonstrated against Australia and Mexico.

    Campbell has registered a top speed of 31.07 km/h, while he has also made 11 solo runs to the area and sent seven deliveries into the box, as per FIFA.com.

    Veteran Ron Vlaar will be the man in charge of stopping him, and although it will not be easy, the centre-back has so far had 90 percent passing accuracy, has made 36 clearances and has intercepted seven balls, according to Squawka.

     

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