Brazil and Germany have officially moved on to the FIFA World Cup Semifinals, and Costa Rica is hoping to join them by winning its first quarterfinal match against the crusading Dutch. Both the Netherlands and Los Ticos started the tournament with decisive wins over supposedly superior opponents. Costa Rica took out Uruguay 3-1 despite being the clear underdog of the Group D, and the Netherlands got revenge on Spain for the 2010 final, embarrassing the former Champions 5-1.
The Dutch may not have been expected to beat Spain in the very first game, but they certainly were expected to advance out of Group B. Costa Rica, on the other hand, had little hope of even winning a match after being drawn into a group with three former World Cup Champions, but the Ticos paid no mind to rankings or predictions, soundly beating both Uruguay and Italy to clinch advancement and then taking a scoreless draw with England to earn first place in their group.
The Netherlands also took first place in the group stage, but struggled a little in its round of 16 game against Mexico. Giovani dos Santos scored just after the first half, and it looked like the Dutch were going to be defeated until Wesley Sneijder tied the game with only two minutes left to play in regular time.
Four minutes of stoppage time were added, and anyone could see the Europeans were tiring out. Extra time would clearly be more favorable to Mexico, but the game never made it that far. In the waning seconds of the game, Arjen Robben fell to the ground a little too easily after a challenge by Rafael Marquez in the box. The referee awarded a penalty kick, which Klaas Jan Huntelaar converted just before the final whistle.
Robin van Persie, Sneijder and Robben have the ability to score, but the controversy surrounding their last win is still hanging over their heads, and the Dutch clearly wore down early in the first knockout round match. Costa Rica not only played a full 120 minutes and went to penalty kicks against Greece, but the Central Americans did so with only 10 men for nearly half of that time. Los Ticos looked tired, but somehow the Greeks looked even more so, and were unable to capitalize in 54 minutes of one-man advantage, losing in penalties thanks to an incredible save by Keylor Navas.
Navas is in the lineup for the Ticos first ever FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals match, as is Bryan Ruiz, who scored against Italy and Greece and has experience breaking down European defenses. Joel Campbell will be on the field as well, and the 22-year-old Arsenal striker is looking for his second goal of the 2014 World Cup.
Costa Rica no longer has the element of surprise on its side, as the team has proven to be faster, stronger and more determined than anyone originally expected. The Dutch will not underestimate their opponent, but Costa Rica still has the ability to win. The Ticos will simply need to tire out the Europeans and strike early, as Mexico did. Of course, they will also have to be very careful where they put their feet, and hope Robben is not handed another penalty kick in the last seconds of the game.
Commentary by Christina Jones
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