Netherlands vs. Costa Rica: 6 Things We Learned
The Netherlands needed a penalty shootout to see off plucky Costa Rica in their World Cup quarter-final clash in Salvador on Saturday, with substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul proving the hero by making two saves.
The game finished 0-0 after normal time, and neither side could find a winner during extra time either, which meant the match went to penalties.
It was a dour affair for much of the contest, though both sides had chances to win it in an exciting extra-time period.
Here are six things we learned from the 0-0 (4-3) match.
The Netherlands Were Set Up Not to Lose
Dutch mastercoach Louis van Gaal took a surprisingly conservative approach to his team tactics for the game against underdogs Costa Rica.
Rather than risking an all-out attacking strategy against the CONCACAF minnows, Van Gaal opted to start with a 3-4-3 that featured two wing-backs in Dirk Kuyt and Daley Blind, who would often join the defensive line.
Wesley Sneijder was used in a more defensive role than he is accustomed to as well, sitting in midfield alongside Georginio Wijnaldum.
The tactics worked in that the Dutch were hard to break down, but they also had trouble finding a way through a packed Costa Rican defence, with the only sustained threat coming from raids down the flanks from Arjen Robben and Memphis Depay.
Keylor Navas Is One of the Stars of the World Cup
Costa Rica's goalkeeper continued his excellent World Cup with another great performance against the Dutch.
Keylor Navas has been one of the best shot-stoppers in Brazil, which is saying a lot in a tournament featuring some terrific goalkeeping.
He leaves the tournament having conceded just two goals in five games.
The CONCACAF confederation in particular should be proud of its current crop of keepers, with Guillermo Ochoa and Tim Howard also counting amongst the top players in the World Cup.
Joel Campbell Faded After an Electric Start to the Tournament
After a sensational opening match against Uruguay, Joel Campbell failed to have quite the same impact in Costa Rica's subsequent matches.
He scored one goal and made another as the Ticos caused the first major upset of the tournament by downing former champions Uruguay.
Since then, the 22-year-old shined in patches but was unable to dominate matches in the same manner.
His showing against the Netherlands was his weakest of the World Cup, and manager Jorge Luis Pinto replaced him in the 66th minute.
Arjen Robben Won't Be Changing His Style Anytime Soon
Despite receiving a barrage of criticism following the Mexico game for his tendency to go down very easily, Robben continued his antics against Costa Rica.
The flying winger won numerous free kicks for the Dutch by bursting past defenders and then acrobatically tumbling over at the slightest hint of contact.
To be fair to the Bayern Munich man, even though he was overly theatrical, few of the free kicks he won in the quarter-final were the result of blatant dives.
He was also the Netherlands' most potent attacking threat throughout.
Costa Rica Lack Firepower Up Front
The Central American side have shown themselves to be a well-organised, solid outfit in Brazil, but their lack of firepower up front cost them in the end.
Costa Rica had just one shot on target against the Dutch, continuing a barren spell in front of goal that persisted since their 1-0 win over Italy in the second group game.
Van Gaal's Krull Gamble
It may have seemed like a massive gamble to replace his starting goalkeeper specifically for the penalty shoot-out, but Van Gaal's decision turned out to be the right one, as Tim Krul saved spot kicks from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to see his side over the line.
Not many managers would have had the courage to pull off their side's starting keeper in the 120th minute, but that is one of the reasons why Van Gaal is considered one of the best in the business.
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