Netherlands vs Costa Rica World Cup 2014 preview: The key men for each team in the quarter-final
Who will the Netherlands and Costa Rica look to as they fight for a place in the final four?
Saturday 05 July 2014
The Netherlands are overwhelming favourites to progress to the semi-final, but Costa Rica have already sprung plenty of surprises to get this far.
We look at the three key men Louis van Gaal and Jorge Pinto will rely on in Salvador and see what they must do to ensure it is their team in the semi-final.
Read more: Match preview - Stage set for Wesley Sneijder to take leading role
Five reasons why Costa Rica will beat the Netherlands
Five reasons why the Netherlands will beat Costa Rica
Nigel de Jong was arguably the most important player in Louis van Gaal's 5-3-2 formation, providing the perfect defensive cover for the likes of Arjen Robben and the wing backs to get forward. The Netherlands had been the best team in the tournament until the Mexico match, because De Jong had been fit. Now he's missing, Van Gaal will likely pick Blind in that role - the Ajax left back has earned rave reviews for his forays along the touchline but now must temper his attacking instincts. He has played the position plenty of times but it will also force Van Gaal to tweak the way he approaches the game.
Love him or loathe him, Robben - perhaps bar Neymar - has been the stand out player of the tournament. His diving and theatrics mean he will never get the credit he deserves, but the Bayern winger is one of the very, very best in the world. He may still have a streak of greed that is detrimental but his pace, dribbling and finishing mark him out as the Oranje's most potent threat.
Robin van Persie
A lacklustre performance against Mexico led to Van Gaal hauling his captain off with 15 minutes remaining - the comeback came when he was off the pitch. But despite his poor performance in the Fortlaeza heat, Van Persie is still a match-winner with more than enough quality to see his side through. His three goals in the opening two matches are testament to that. Robin van Persie is a match-winner despite a poor game against Mexico
The Costa Rican goalkeeper has been brilliant in the tournament to this point and will have to continued that form if his side are to stand any chance against the Dutch. The Levante goalkeeper has been outstanding all the way through but was pushed to his very best in the last-16 tie against Greece. With Costa Rica down to 10 men and the Greeks piling on the pressure, Navas produced a couple of saves to force the shoot-out - he then produced a brilliant save from Theofanis Gekas, sending Los Ticos through. He faces another tough test against Robin van Persie and Co.
Their skipper is the heart and soul of this team, typifying the hard work and effort Costa Rica have applied to get to this stage. He is sixth among players who have covered the most distance while not in possession - not including players from Friday's quarter-finals - having covered 17.9km without the ball at his feet. When he does have the ball he is more than capable, with an 81.8 per cent pass completion rate and he rarely fouls, having committed just three in four matches. Borges must put in another lionhearted performance in the centre of midfield tonight.
Skipper Bryan Ruiz will also play a big role but Costa Rica look to the Arsenal striker to be provide their match-winning spark. He's provided a goal and an assist in the four games but his selfless work as the lone striker really sets the tone for the rest of the XI and he has the quality should a chance fall his way. Costa Rica have already caused four upsets in this tournament, why can't they make a fifth?
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