Will the Netherlands get CONCACAF’d? That is the question going into this quarterfinal tilt as the Dutch will face off against a surprising Costa Rica side making its first-ever appearance in this round of the World Cup.
TACTICS BATTLE: Jorge Luis Pinto and Louis van Gaal have both been lauded for their tactics in this tournament so far. Both teams have come out playing in the 5-3-2 formation, but in very different ways. Pinto has kept his five-man backline, frustrating his opponents into their offside trap. Van Gaal has allowed his team to sit back a little further and make their living on the counter attack. Whose tactics will win out on Saturday?
WAS IT A DIVE?: Whether he’s scoring fantastic goals or flopping around on the field looking for a call, Arjen Robben is always a talking point for fans. Robben drew the critical stoppage-time call in the Round of 16 against Mexico. As he was slaloming along the end line, Robben’s foot was clipped by Rafael Marquez. Robben went flying into the air and was given the penalty call, allowing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to hand the Dutch the victory. After the game, Robben revealed he did not dive on that play, but he had earlier in the game. Will he employ the same tactics against Costa Rica? Knowing Robben’s game, there is little doubt he will do everything he can to gain an advantage.
BEAT UP: After the Ticos were basically able to take a game off against England, manager Jorge Luis Pinto came into his Round of 16 game with his full squad intact and healthy. That will not be the case against the Netherlands. The team had to play almost 60 minutes down a man after Oscar Duarte was shown a red card in the 66th minute, a scenario which may have taken a lot out of the Ticos both physically and emotionally.
SANTOS TAKING NOTICE: With their clash against the Netherlands upon them, Costa Rica decided to move their training to the legendary grounds of Santos FC. Home to the likes of Pele and Neymar, the Brazilian club greeted the Ticos in style. Each player was presented with a Santos jersey in their locker. Could this have been a recruiting ploy?
ROY MISSING: With Duarte set to miss the game because of his red card against Greece, Roy Miller would seem to be the natural replacement to take his starting spot. But a hamstring strain looks like it will prevent the New York Red Bulls left back from participating. Look for Johnny Acosta to occupy the left centerback spot in Pinto’s 5-3-2 system.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Robin van Persie, forward, Netherlands – He was taken off even though the Netherlands were trailing Mexico last Saturday. Look for him to come out and prove a point to Costa Rica, and his coach, that he should not be taken lightly.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Giancarlo Gonzalez, defender, Costa Rica – We know him from the Columbus Crew, but Gonzalez has been turning heads across the world with his play at the World Cup so far. He will have to continue that play if he hopes to keep Robben and Van Persie off the scoresheet.