Brazil World Cup: Netherlands v Costa Rica: Tips and predictions

By on July 6, 2014

Netherlands will face Costa Rica in the last quarter final of this round in a bid to book their place in the semi finals. Louis van Gaal’s side are favorites for this one with Los Tricos missing some key players, however Costa Rica have managed to escape from the group of death and they can cause an upset in this game as well. This will be the first ever meeting between the Netherlands and Costa Rica.

Netherlands were off to a flying start to the tournament thrashing Spain 5-1 in their opening game and going on to maintain a perfect record in the group stages. They managed to win all three of their group games finihsing the group on top. However, they were tested by Mexico in the round of 16. They Netherlands were on track to get knocked out of the tournament as Mexico led the game by 1-0 till the last five minutes or so when some inspirational changes made by coach Louis van Gaal tunred the game on it’s head. They scored a late equalizer through Wesley Sneijder and then went on to score the winner from the penalty spot after Arjen Robben was brought down in the box. Louis van Gaal’s side were humbled in that game and it is clear that they must improve further if they are to lift the World Cup come the final day of the tournament. His favorite 3-4-1-2 formation left gaps in the back which Mexico managed to exploit to score the opening goal and teams like Brazil, Argentina and Germany could further exploit them and cause damage. Furthermore, Mexico kept a compact defensive setup and the Dutch found it difficult to break that barrier for most parts of the game. Their tactics required some tweaking before they managed to score. Van Gaal shifted to a traditional 4-3-3 in the latter stages of that game and he could go with the same setup from the start in this game to fully utilize Arjen Robben’s pace.

Midfield enforcer Nigel De Jong picked up an injury and is likely to miss the rest of the tournamanet and that will be worrisome for the coach as he was the perfect fit in that 3-4-1-2 system. Costa Rica are known for their tight defence as they have managed to keep the likes of England and Italy at bay. With the defensive strategy of their opponents and the injury to the midfielder, van Gaal might be tempted to shift to the 4-3-3 for this game. That formation offers much more support to the defence and allows them to control the game in the final third as well.

Louis van Gaal’s main focus will be to not conede in the early minutes because as the game goes on and fatigue kicks in, his side can start finding gaps in that Costa Rican defence and exploit them. If Costa Rica score early on, they will put all the bodies behind the ball and defend the game for the 90 minutes with a tight backline.

Netherlands have won 10 of their last 11 World Cup matches, with the only blip in this run being their 2010 final defeat against Spain. Costa Rica are unbeaten in four World Cup games for the very first time (W2 D2). The Netherlands have now turned their last four World Cup games in which they fell behind in regular time (90 mins, not inc. ET) into a victories. Seven different players have scored for the Netherlands at this World Cup. The Netherlands have never lost to a CONCACAF team at the World Cup (W1 D1, both against Mexico). Wesley Sneijder has scored five goals in his last five World Cup knockout matches for the Netherlands. Sneijder has played more World Cup games than any other Dutchman (15). The Netherlands have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 11 World Cup knockout games, last keeping a shutout against Ireland in 1994.

Costa Rica have been the dark horses of this tournament so far. They were placed in the group of death alongwith England, Uruguay and Italy and no one  expected them to make it through to the next round. However, after picking up two consecutive victories in their opening games and a draw in the game against England, they finished top of the group. They had a tough outing in the round of 16 game against Greece where they took the lead but conceded a late equalizer as the game went into extra time. With none of the teams finding a goal in extra time, they game went on to penalties where star goalkeeper Keylor Navas made the decisive save to earn them a place in the quarter finals. This is the first ever time that Costa Rica have managed to make it to the quarter finals and coach Pinto must make sure that his team are not overwhelmed by the opportunity and manage to keep the same focus they have maintained so far in the tournament. Unlike Colombia who were overwhelmed by their quarter final opponents after an excellent campaign, Costa Rica have to stick to their gameplan because Netherlands have a lot more experience at this stage of the tournament and that could be key in this encounter. Furthermore, this will be the toughest test for Costa Rica so far and Louis van Gaal’s side are very good at breaking down defences.

Defender Roy Miller will be unavailable for this game as he picked up a knock. He will be a huge miss for this one as Costa Rica are a team that like to play defensivley and and keep a very narrow space between the lines. They like to catch the opponents on the counter and to sustain such pressure they need a very solid defense. Apart from Miller, Duarte will also miss this game as he is suspended and he will be another huge loss. The absence of these two defenders will put massive pressure on the team as they look to keep the Dutch at bay.

Keylor Navas gave Costa Rica fans a scare in the game against Greece where he picked up a knock mid-game and although he played throughout the match there were some doubts over his availability for this game. However, recent media reports suggest that he is fully fit for this game and will retain his spot in between the goal posts.

Costa Rica are unbeaten in four World Cup games for the very first time (W2 D2). Los Ticos became the first CONCACAF team since the USA in 2002 to reach the quarter-final phase of the World Cup. Costa Rica have beaten just one European side in their last seven encounters with teams from that continent, though this did come against Italy earlier in the World Cup (D3 L3). Los Ticos have scored in all but one of their nine World Cup matches against teams from Europe, failing to score against England earlier in the tournament. Bryan Ruiz scored with Costa Rica’s only shot on target in the match against Greece. Keylor Navas has saved 87.5% of the shots he’s faced at the World Cup so far, making 14 saves.

Netherlands will be without midfielder Nigel De Jong who picked up an injury and will not be available for the rest of the event. Jonathan De Guzamn or Daley Blind could fill in for him. Daryl Janmaat will regain his spot in the starting XI in place of Paul Verhaegh who could not make an impact in the last game. Wijnaldum will retain his place in midfield alongside either De Guzman or Blind. With Blind moving into midfield, Martins Indi is expected to start on the left side of defence.

Costa Rica will be without Roy Miller who is out with an injury and Oscar Duarte who picked up a red card against Greece in the round of 16. Apart from the change in defence, Pinto will start with the same XI he used against Greece with Joel Campbell the lone striker up front.

DATE: July 5, 2014


VENUE: Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Bahia

REFEREE: Ravshan Irmatov

Netherlands (3-4-1-2):- Cillessen; Indi, Vlaar, Vrij; Kuyt, Blind, Wijnaaldum, Janmaat; Sneijder; Robben, van Persie
Costa Rica (5-4-1):- Navas; Diaz, Acosta, Gonzalez, Umana, Gamboa; Bolanos, Tejeda, Borges, Ruiz; Campbell

Netherlands:- 2-1 vs Mexico
Costa Rica:- 1-1 vs Greece

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: Netherlands 2-0 Costa Rica

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