Netherlands, Costa Rica Dramatically Qualify for Quarterfinals
The Netherlands and Costa Rica both had to go through their share of drama in order to qualify for the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup.
The Dutch faced a determined Mexican side, which had managed to hold Brazil to a draw in the group stage. They also faced the blazing heat of Fortaleza, a climate not to the best of their liking. After an eventless first half, it was Mexico who went on top in the 48th minute, after a long-range cannon from Giovani Dos Santos.
In the minutes until the end, the Netherlands pushed for an equalizer, but Miguel Herrera’s men defended well. The side post also came to their rescue on one occasion.
The biggest drama came in the last minutes, however. In the 88th, Wesley Sneijder equalized as he flew into the penalty box unmarked and met a rebounded volley, leaving Mexican goalkeeper Ochoa stunned. Well into the additional 6 minutes of play, Arjen Robben broke one of his emblematic sprints through the right wing, and was tripped just on the edge of the penalty box. This prompted the Portuguese referee Proenca to award a penalty kick, but later replays suggested there may have been a dive on the part of Robben. Substitue Huntelaar converted the penalty to send his team into the quarterfinals and complete a comeback that will be remembered for years to come.
In the second fixture of the night, Costa Rica and Greece played a low-tempo match, which was marked by frequent stoppage of play. The Central Americans took the lead shortly after the break through Bryan Ruiz, but were left a man short when Oscar Duarte was sent off in the 66th minute.
The Greeks were only able to make their one-man advantage count in the last minute, when Sokratis Papastathopoulos converted a loose ball in the penalty box, deflected from a save of Costa Rica’s goalkeeper.
Thirty minutes of extra time were not enough for a winner to emerge, as the Greeks missed out on the opportunity to use the additional spaces on the pitch. A close range miss from Kostas Mitroglou was the most they could offer.
The Costa Ricans showed nerves of steel in the penalty shootout, scoring all their spot kicks. The decisive miss came from the experienced Theofanis Gekas, when Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas saved with the tip of his fingers.
Costa Rica’s World Cup fairytale continues, as they knock out the 2004 European champion, after progressing through a group alongside 3 former world champions – Uruguay, England, and Italy. In the next round, they will have yet another uphill task against the Netherlands, but Jorge Pinto’s men have showed that they fear nobody in this tournament.
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