Netherlands vs. Costa Rica: Dutch Squad's Weaknesses Were Exposed in Victory

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIJuly 6, 2014

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 05:  The Netherlands line up for a penalty shootout during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Quarter Final match between the Netherlands and Costa Rica at Arena Fonte Nova on July 5, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The Netherlands entered Saturday's clash against Costa Rica as the 2014 World Cup's highest-scoring team with a total of 12 goals.

Although, the Dutch were held scoreless in the match not only through regulation but extra time as well. This forced the team to earn its victory via penalty kicks (4-3).

We already knew Costa Rica was a great defensive team coming into the match—it allowed just two goals throughout the tournament and was the World Cup's top defending team, according to FIFA.com.

Here's a look back at one glimpse of a remarkable Costa Rican defensive stand:

But was Costa Rica's stout defense the cause for the Netherlands' offensive woes, or was it something more?

Looking back at the match, although Costa Rica—and especially goalkeeper Keylor Navas—was spectacular, there are concerns for the Dutch as they head into their semifinals match against Argentina.

Costa Rica was without its best defender in Oscar Duarte against the Netherlands due to the red card he picked up during his team's round-of-16 bout with Greece.

Jon Arnold of Goal USA noted a significant gap in Costa Rica's defensive talent after Duarte:

The fact that the Dutch were unable to take advantage of his absence is a cause for concern going forward.

Taking Argentina's defensive prowess against Belgium—another solid attacking squad—into perspective, the Dutch could be in some trouble.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is a mastermind of defensive strategy, keeping his team well balanced on both ends of the pitch. He uses every player, no matter his position, to close in on an opposing team to limit opportunities.

Expect a similar tactical style to be on display against the Dutch in the semifinals.

Posing an issue for the Netherlands on another part of the pitch is the absence of Nigel de Jong, as he'll continue to miss time with a groin tear, according to ESPN FC:

Without De Jong in the fold, the Dutch may have trouble containing players running the ball up the center of the pitch—something Lionel Messi does very well.

Here's a great look at how Messi can exploit any weaknesses in the middle of the pitch:

Costa Rica was able to take advantage of this situation on several occasions—especially on the counterattack—and Argentina should be expected to do the same.

This isn't to say the Dutch don't stand a chance against the Argentinians. After all, this is still a very talented team from top to bottom. But with these glaring issues in mind—along with a very deep, talented Argentina team on the other side of the pitch—the Netherlands has its work cut out to reach the finals.

One thing is for certain: We'll have a very intriguing match on our hands on Wednesday.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.