The Netherlands continue their World Cup journey on Saturday, taking on Costa Rica in the quarter-finals in Salvador.
On paper, it looks as if Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side have an easy ride into the last four, but the Costa Ricans will big to differ.
Having progressed through Group D as winners at the expense of Italy, Uruguay and England before defeating Greece on penalties, Costa Rica have proved they can produce a scalp or two and will be hoping for more of the same on Saturday.
Venue: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Date: Saturday, 5 July
Time: 9 p.m. BST / 4 p.m. ET
Costa Rica’s Journey Coming to an End?
Though the Costa Ricans’ story is an inspirational tale, defeating the highly rated Netherlands could just be a bit too tough for Jorge Luis Pinto’s side.
Finding their way to famous victories against Italy and Uruguay in the group stage, Costa Rica have won lots of fans for their thrilling style of play in Brazil, but they could just be tactically outwitted by the Netherlands.
Van Gaal sets his side up with a brick wall, 5-3-2 formation, and invites sides to attack before lethally catching them on the counter attack.
Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have been vital behind such a system for the Dutch, threatening the opposition goal more than any others and scoring six goals between them—as OptaJohan’s statistics reveal:
Per FIFA.com, Robben, who has arguably been the player of the tournament so far, recently said the Dutch are determined to go as far as they can but can’t underestimate Costa Rica on their mission for glory:
We are on a mission together, and when you come to a World Cup it's not to enjoy the weather and enjoy the beach in Rio. You're here to win matches and to go as far as possible. Costa Rica have a very good team, they have already proved that in their group, which was very tough, with Italy, England and Uruguay in there. They've been really impressive and we'll have to prepare very well if we're going to beat them.
Beating them will mean the Bayern Munich man and his partner in crime Van Persie will have to be at their best, but if the form book is anything to go by, then there could be more Dutch delight in Salvador.
The Netherlands showed incredible spirit to come from behind to beat Mexico in the dying embers of their round-of-16 tie—leading Rio Ferdinand to believe they could go all the way:
However, Costa Rica showed a similar determination in their tie, defeating Greece on penalties after playing a large spell of the match with 10 men.
It summed up how stubborn Pinto’s men have been all tournament, and in Bryan Ruiz, they have a player in form.
The Fulham man has scored two crucial goals in the World Cup so far, showing a devastating finishing touch when in the advanced positions—as Squawka Football revealed:
His performances are a cut above anything he’s ever produced in the Premier League, and the Costa Ricans will once again be turning to their captain for inspiration on Saturday.
That being said, the Netherlands just have the technical class to outwit Ruiz and co. in Salvador and should be able to progress to the last four.
It’s clear Van Gaal wants to go out of international management with a bang, and he’s now just three games away from doing that in the best possible fashion by leading the Dutch to World Cup glory.
Getting the better of Costa Rica means being tactically perfect and not underestimating the opposition, but the 62-year-old has been around the block enough times to know how to cope in such a situation and will lead the Dutch to the semi-finals.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-0 Costa Rica