In the fourth and final World Cup quarter-final this summer surprise package Costa Rica will face Holland. Both sides claimed significant scalps in the group stages to top their respective groups, with the Netherlands’ most impressive result being the 5-1 win against holders Spain. Costa Rica managed victories against both Uruguay and Italy, only drawing with England after their qualification had been confirmed.
Neither side was down as anybody’s major tip to win the tournament ahead of the big kick off last month, with many believing that the Dutch have defensive frailties that would be exposed at the tournament.
Meanwhile, all the talk of Group D was about who would be eliminated alongside Costa Rica, a side given no chance in a group containing three former World Cup winners with rich footballing heritage.
But the likes of Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz have led Costa Rica to a successful campaign, topping the group with seven points and beating Greece in the last 16. They have been lauded for their organisation and work rate and deserve their place in the last eight, but whether or not they can beat the Dutch remains to be seen.
Manchester United bound Louis Van Gaal is taking charge of Holland for the final time at this World Cup and would love to end the tournament and his time with the national squad on a high. Van Gaal and the Dutch team were widely written off by both global and domestic press but have had a stunning World Cup led by the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie.
Three wins in the group stages saw them qualify with a maximum of nine points and they then beat Mexico in the last 16 in dramatic fashion. After Giovani Dos Santos put the Mexicans ahead it looked as though they were on course for the win, but an equalizer from Wesley Sneijder and a controversial penalty from Klaas Jan Huntelaar turned the game around in the final minutes.
Robben went down easily to win the penalty and later admitted that he had made the most of the contact from the defender, which means all eyes will be on him in the quarter-final between the sides. Along with Van Persie, Robben will carry a huge amount of pressure for the remainder of Holland’s campaign.
The Dutch defense is not the best but Van Gaal has them well drilled and determined. Coupled with the brilliance of their attacking play, Holland have been a force to be reckoned with in this tournament. Should the Costa Ricans beat their Dutch opponents it would probably represent the biggest shock of the tournament so far.
Holland are expected to make it to the semi finals yet again and will be hoping to go one better that in 2010 when they were losing finalists. As they gain momentum, they seem more and more like a team that could achieve their goal.
Holland have won more games than any other nation that hasn’t won the trophy before, but they would much rather add their name to that elite list and become the first European side to win it in South America at the same time.
Van Gaal will be determined to go into his role as United boss with a major success behind him to prove that he is up to the challenge. The game against Costa Rica provides the perfect platform to build towards that goal of winning the World Cup.
And although they may not be the biggest team left in the tournament, victory against Costa Rica will provide the Dutch with extra confidence going into the semi-final stage.