The Oranje, as ever, play the 3-5-2 in their own way. The two players stationed out wide have very different briefs, Daryl Janmaat only occasionally passes the halfway line. Instead Janmaat is tasked with helping cover space as the 3 man defense shuffles up and over to shut down space in midfield and compensate for the space left by Daley Blind. Starting his career as a left-back Blind recently received the Dutch Player of the Year award for his season in the holding midfield role at Ajax.
In the opening demolition of Spain, Blind was crucial with his devastating long range passing totally bypassing a bewildered Spanish mid-field while avoiding leaning on the fading Wesley Sneijder to provide the spark. Continuing with this formation isn’t a sure thing, Van Gaal prefers flexibility and the rambunctious Australia exposed the inexperience of the young back line and it’s susceptibility to pace. The lighting quick hydra that is Chile will provide the Dutch with their sternest test of the tournament.
Costa Rica came to Brazil as a bit a of mystery. Qualifying second in the Hex they had a pretty average run to that spot, some good wins, mostly away losses, but showed that they had a few quality players that could give them a threat come June.
On June 14th fans in the stadium and watching at home were treated to Costa Rica schooling Uruguay with a textbook performance. Los Ticos’ counterattacking 3-5-2 worked flawlessly against Uruguay’s mundane 4-4-2, Gamboa and Diaz brought the energy needed to work hard up and down the touchline, stretching Uruguay as soon as the ball turned over. Gamboa in particular added to the joy Costa Rica got down the right, combining well with Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell. In the end set-pieces proved the difference but the hard running of Gamboa and Diaz meant that Costa Rica found themselves in a 3v2 or 2v1 against the Uruguayan back line, leading to the hacks and last ditch fouls that created the parade of Ticos set pieces in the final 20 minutes. Costa Rica has a tough group but their dominate opening display will give the England and Italy back lines something to think about.
The demands of international soccer are very different from that of club matches but perhaps the effectiveness and possibility for variation will lead to the 3-5-2 appearing on more European pitches in August.