Netherlands vs. Costa Rica | Kickoff: 7/4, 4 p.m. ET | Stadium: Fonte Nova, Salvador
Match Preview: It’s safe to say that the days of Costa Rica sneaking up on opponents are over.
After winning the so-called “Group of Champions” over Italy, England, and Uruguay, Costa Rica beat Greece to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in its history. But don’t expect the Dutch to take them lightly.
“These games don’t come easier. There are no easy games,” Netherlands defender Ron Vlaar said earlier this week. “Costa Rica beat Uruguay and Italy and then drew against England. Then they beat Greece. It will be another hard game again, but we are really looking forward to it. It’s a great challenge again.”
The Netherlands, it should be noted, needed a bit of luck to reach the quarterfinals. After falling behind a defensive-minded Mexico side, the Dutch somehow strung together two goals in the game’s final minutes for the win. One was a Wesley Sneijder strike on a rebound at the top of the box; the other a penalty kick after a, um, questionable foul call in the box.
Regardless, they’re through, and the only thing standing in their way is a team that was expected to be walked over in Group D.
But Costa Rica proved to be anything but a doormat, setting the tone in the group with a decisive 3-1 victory over Uruguay in its opening match, and following that with a 1-0 win over Italy.
Forwards Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell have been problems for opposing defenses, and Keylor Navas has been brilliant in goal. But the Dutch boast a powerful attack, too — led by the aforementioned Robben and Sneijder, as well as Robin Van Persie — which would appear to be enough to overpower the Costa Ricans.
But almost every team to this point has seemed capable of overpowering the Costa Ricans. Still hasn’t happened.