Saturday Jul 05, 2014. 14:17
The Netherlands are favourites to progress into the final four of the 2014 World Cup when they take on Costa Rica in a quarterfinal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador on Saturday evening, kick-off at 22h00CAT.
‘Oranje’ have been one of the most impressive teams on show at the tournament, dominating a tough Group B with three wins before staging a late comeback in the last 16 to defeat Mexico 2-1.
Costa Rica have also caught the eye, surprisingly topping a ‘group of death’ ahead of a trio of former world champions, Uruguay, Italy and England, before seeing off Greece on penalties in the last 16.
Yet, amongst a quarterfinal line-up that includes four former World Cup winners (France, Germany, Brazil and Argentina), a team which has reached the final three times (Netherlands) and two sides packed full of world-class quality (Colombia and Belgium), the ‘Ticos’ are widely seen as the weakest of the eight remaining contenders.
However, winger Arjen Robben, who has been one of the best players in Brazil 2014, insists that the Netherlands will have to be at the top of their game to get the better of Costa Rica in Salvador.
“I think they're a very strong team. We have to stay focused. Costa Rica have a very good team, they have already proved that in their group, which was very tough, with Italy, England and Uruguay in there. They've been really impressive and we'll have to prepare very well if we're going to beat them,” the Bayern Munich winger told FIFA.com.
He also explained that the Dutch are “on a mission together” as they look to go one step further than 2010 when they were beaten in the final by Spain.
“[…] When you come to a World Cup it's not to enjoy the weather and enjoy the beach in Rio. You're here to win matches and to go as far as possible. I don't think the expectations were that high before the tournament and, as a result, we can be very proud of where we are.”
The Netherlands will have to do without anchor midfielder Nigel De Jong, who has been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament with a groin injury, but Robben believes the team’s bench will prove strong enough to replace him.
“[…] Our strength is that every player who comes off the bench on to the pitch manages to have a big impact on the match. The confidence within our team is very big, in spite of any absence."
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas, the hero of the penalty shootout win over Greece, believes his team has already defied expectations by reaching the quarterfinals, but is adamant they can continue on their fairy-tale run.
“This is a huge achievement for us,” Navas told FIFA.com. “We are thrilled to bits and we’re doing something massively important for our country. We need to keep this feeling going. The Netherlands are a great side and one of the biggest teams in the world, but we’re going be just as determined when we play them and show the same character. We’ll be going out to win.”
The Ticos could miss key defender Roy Miller, who is battling a left foot injury.