If someone had told the majority of football fans a month ago that we would see this match, they would have laughed or thought of the idea as highly unlikely. That’s the beauty of this year’s World Cup, nothing has gone as expected. We see surprising teams beating titans, powerhouse teams exiting early and goalkeepers becoming the true stars. The tournament is nearing its end, but there’s still plenty of quality matches to be seen.
The Dutch have come a long way since beating Spain 5-1. The formations have changed a bit in order to adapt to each rival, but the essence of the team remains untouched. Robben is truly the star and the one who makes the Oranje a lethal team. However, in front of them is one of the surprises of the World Cup. While Costa Rica doesn’t have a very rich and/or long history in the tournament, this year they decided to start writing their golden pages. After beating Uruguay and Italy in the first round, the Ticos garnered a lot of praise and goalkeeper Keylor Navas has become essential in the success of the CONCACAF squad. They have an interesting style that has proved to be effective and easy on the eyes. It won’t be an easy task for the Dutch, but let’s take a look at what they can do to send the Ticos home.
Shoot, shoot and shoot
If you haven’t been living under a rock during the World Cup, you should know Keylor Navas is one of the fine goalkeepers that has graced us with epic saves. The Dutch know this and because of it, they must not be intimidated by his skills. Navas is human at the end of the day and in order for him to fail, you have to keep testing him. If the Oranje find a reasonable opportunity to shoot, they should take it. Navas will fail at some point, but if they don’t try, they will suffer a lot.
Adapt the Formation
Louis van Gaal has alternated the 5-3-2 formation and the 4-3-3. The Ticos have settled with the 5-4-1, meaning they put a lot of muscle in the middle and have a powerful striker up front. Retaining the 5-3-2 would probably be a mistake, since the Dutch have lost Nigel de Jong for the rest of the competition, they need to make some changes. One of the best options is putting Daley Blind in de Jong’s place and keeping four men in the back, much like they did against Mexico. The Oranje needs to fill that space with someone, since Costa Rica has a lot of tough midfielders. With Blind serving as the defensive one, the rest of the midfield line can help when needed, but focus more on getting past the five men in front of Navas.
Help out Robben
Arjen is without a doubt one of the best players of the competition so far, but he can’t always carry the Netherlands to victory. If he has an off day, will they just sit back and do nothing? The Dutch need to be focused on always making the best out of a situation, not only rely on Robben pulling something out of the hat. Fast and creative players like Depay, Fer and Lens can provide the Oranje with some alternatives in case things go south. They have to function as a team in order to win this, one man isn’t always enough.
Overall, this will be an unexpected match, but one that is sure to bring the best out of both teams since they are both craving that spot in the semi-finals. With some mindful decisions and with everyone putting their grain of salt, there’s nothing that the Netherlands can’t do.