The Netherlands will take on Costa Rica at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador on Saturday for a place in the World Cup semi-final, with the clash seen as a match between the third favourites and the biggest surprise package of the tournament.
The Netherlands left it very late in scoring twice versus Mexico in the second round with Wesley Sneijder equalising in the 88th minute before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted a penalty four minutes into added time to seal a 2-1 victory.
Costa Rica came through their tie with Greece on penalties after the Cental American side conceded a 91st minute equaliser. Jorge Luis Pinto’s side had Óscar Duarte sent off in the 66th minute, therefore played nearly an hour with ten men.
Louis van Gaal’s side are the shortest odds of any of the eight quarter-finalists to progress from their tie. Costa Rica were the underdogs in all three of their group games before being narrow favourites with the bookmakers to see off Greece.
The 12 goals scored by the Dutch in their four games at this World Cup is the most by any team in the tournament. Their four goals conceded though is the most of the eight remaining nations.
Costa Rica meanwhile have scored the fewest of the teams left in the competition, netting only 5 goals on their route to the last eight. The two they have allowed is the joint-fewest of the remaining nations, along with Colombia, France and Belgium.
Nigel de Jong is out of the World Cup with a groin strain picked up early in the last round. He was replaced by Bruno Martins Indi after only nine minutes with the Feyenoord player slotting into a back three with Daley Blind pushing up into a central holding midfield role.
Should Louis van Gaal stick with Blind in that role he would then have two players out of position on the left side of midfielder, with Dirk Kuyt playing left wing-back. Jonathan de Guzmán and Leroy Fer are more-experienced options.
Óscar Duarte is suspended. Head coach Pinto is also without Roy Miller through injury and there could be potential fatigue amongst players who were out of their feet in extra-time six days ago.
Louis van Gaal has been keen on sticking to his 3-5-2 formation that has got him here so there’s a good chance he will stick with the 11 that finished the Mexico game. We’ve put Daryl Janmaat back in ahead of Paul Verhaegh as right wing-back to deal with Costa Rica’s threat down the left. The back three and front three are very likely to remain the same.
Johnny Acosta is the most-likely replacements for the suspended Duarte and injured Miller. Not knowing the fitness levels of these players makes it hard to predict any other changes to their starting lineup.
Arjen Robben vs Christian Gamboa
Arjen Robben has caused all sorts of problems for defences so far in this tournament, as late as stoppage time in their last game in winning a penalty versus Mexico. The Bayern Munich forward may start as left forward, but look for him to cover lots of areas in attack. Cutting in from the right-hand side of the box is one of his specialities. If he starts and/or plays predominantly on the left then expect right-back Christian Gamboa to match up to him. The Costa Rican has made numerous tackles in this World Cup but hasn’t faced anyone quite like Arjen Robben yet.
Robin van Persie vs Giancarlo Gonzalez
Mexico kept Robin van Persie quiet who has now not scored since the opening two group matches after being suspended for the third. Cost Rica have defended stoutly in this tournament so far but have a big task on their hand with the movement and lethal left foot of the Manchester United striker. They allowed Daniel Sturridge a few good opportunities in their final group game and the movement of van Persie could see the Dutch striker in the same positions on Saturday.
Christian Bolaños vs Daryl Janmaat
Costa Rica’s biggest playmaker has been left winger Christian Bolaños. Daryl Janmaat looks like a good option to be brought back into the starting lineup with the number of challenges he makes and in closing down the opponent, thus preventing Bolaños time and space to create chances.
Soccerlens Prediction: Netherlands 3-0 Costa Rica
Surely this is where the fairy-tale ends for the spritely Central Americans. Dutch boss Louis van Gaal has the tactical nous, the players at his disposal and the big game experience to see off the challenge of the World Cup minnows, and guide his side into a potential semi-final match up with Argentina.
Key World Cup links:
Netherlands World Cup 2014 Team Page.
Costa Rica World Cup 2014 Team Page.
World Cup 2014 Matches – Fixtures & Results
World Cup 2014 Player & Team Stats
World Cup 2014 Group Tables
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Our main World Cup 2014 news page.
The Official Soccerlens World Cup Predictor Game.