Monday, 7 July 2014

WC 2014 QUARTER-FINAL MATCH REPORT: Holland vs Costa Rica -

The last quarter-final of this year's World Cup got underway as the huge favourites Holland were up against Costa Rica. 

Without watching the match you would have thought that Holland would have too much quality for the Costa Ricans and the scoreline could end up embarrassing for the South Americans right? Well, you would have been wrong.

Costa Rica had a firm game plan going into the game as clear underdogs, and made sure that they were solid at the back and did not give their opponents too much respect during the match while keeping the scores at 0-0 for the majority of the match; frustrating the Netherlands. 

Holland had previously scraped past Mexico in the Last 16 with two late strikes in last-gasp fashion to even get to the quarter-finals, and they knew that they would be under intense pressure to seal their semi-final place up against Argentina. 

But they struggled to find a way through Costa Rica's organised back four and when they got forward on the counter attack they were unable to beat Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who was in-form throughout the tournament and made some more solid saves during the match on Saturday night. 

Costa Rica's lack of real goal-scoring opportunities was highlighted as whenever they went forward with the ball they struggled to know how to deal with it; meanwhile Holland were dangerous but not clinical enough to kill off the match.

It was still 0-0 after 90, and even after 120 minutes and despite flashes of excitement and chances for both sides - it was down to penalties. More on that in a bit.

Notable chances in the match -

  • Sneijder's long-range free-kick was acrobatically parried away by Navas
  • Robin van Persie had a low strike towards goal blocked by the legs of Navas
  • Last-ditch defending by Costa Rica ensured that Holland could not find the goal they needed in 120 MINUTES.
  • Another Sneijder free-kick was towards goal, and hit the post!
  • A penalty appeal for both sides was waved play on by the referee, who was not exactly in the mood for simulation with Robben on the pitch
  • A last-ditch counter attack for the Costa Ricans almost gave Holland heartbreak late on in extra time, as Urena had a low shot well blocked by Cillessen
  • Sneijder had another well-struck shot towards goal denied by the woodwork, bouncing off the crossbar
  • A late goal-mouth scramble was begging for a Holland goal, but some last-ditch defending prevented van Persie's shot (which hit the post and was cleared off the line)
And then it was time for the penalties. 

The controversy just minutes before the spot-kicks were going to be taken was that Cillessen was replaced by Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul by manager Louis van Gaal; who had no notable injury or problem, but Krul was preferred based on the fact that he had a "longer reach" than his Dutch counterpart. 

An absolutely staggering substitution by van Gaal, who would either become a hero or a zero depending on the outcome for his team. The mind-games began, as the Costa Ricans must have been questioning as to why Krul was replaced on and could have also been distracted as a result..

FACT: Krul had only saved two of the last 20 penalties that he had faced.

Costa Rica had already won a penalty shoot-out on the way to the quarter-finals against Greece in the Last 16, and it was credit to them to get to where they were, playing very well defensively and getting goals when they needed them.

It was a nerve-racking atmosphere inside the stadium, here were my LIVE reactions to the penalties as they were being taken:

  • GOAL! 1-0 to Costa Rica, thanks to a great finish from Celso Borges who slots the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Krul dived the right way, but couldn't get there in time.
  • GOAL! 1-1, Holland equalise thanks to another good finish - this time from Manchester United striker Robin van Persie with a low drive into the corner, out of Navas' reach.
  • SAVED! Still 1-1, as Krul makes his first save of the shootout after playing mind games with Fulham midfielder Bryan Ruiz and guessing the right way to dive low and parry Ruiz's tame shot away from goal.
  • GOAL! Holland take the lead in the shootout! Robben with his eyes firmly set on the ball, cooly slots it into the top corner, sending Navas the wrong way. 
  • GOAL! 2-2, as Costa Rica level on penalties thanks to a power strike by Gonzalez, a nice finish. Now the pressure is on the Dutch.
  • GOAL! 3-2 to Holland, back in-front! Galatasaray midfielder Wesley Sneijder with a good penalty, confident and cool past Navas into the corner.
  • Krul again with the cheeky mind games, will they work?
  • GOAL! No they won't, not now at least. 3-3, thanks to a neat finish from a nervous looking Bolanos. Super strike.  
  • GOAL! Kuyt does the business for the Dutch with a low strike right into the corner of the net, despite Navas guessing the right way. 4-3 to Holland.
  • Holland HAVE scored all of their penalties, Costa Rica now have to score otherwise they are OUT.
  • SAVED! There we go. Krul with his second save of the penalty shootout to deny Umana, and the Dutch players run over to celebrate with him in dramatic fashion.
Holland deserved to win the match in the end, but the fact that they narrowly squeezed past Mexico and Costa Rica will give Argentina something to think about ahead of their meeting on Wednesday in the semi-finals. 

Diving stop: Krul dived low to deny Umana and win the match on penalties in dramatic fashion

It was an entertaining finish to a match which arguably should 
have been finished earlier on from the Dutch, 120 minutes drained out of them by a courageous Costa Rican side that should be proud of their efforts. 

Semi-final matches:
Brazil vs Germany - Tuesday
Argentina vs Holland - Wednesday

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