There were not many pundits that expected the Netherlands to go this far in the 2014 World Cup. Pitted alongside the holders Spain and a vibrant Chile team, there was a sense that Louis van Gaal’s progressive Dutch side would fall just short in the group stage, but this campaign would make for the core of young players that make up this squad.
But this team has performed beyond all expectations, and on the brink of their quarter-final clash with Costa Rica, there is growing belief amongst the Oranje ranks that this group is capable of going all the way in this competition.
They have accrued some major momentum heading into this clash with Los Ticos having won all of their games so far, the last one in hugely dramatic fashion; a goal from Wesley Sneijder in the 88th minute and another from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the 93rd minute sent the Dutch through to the quarter-final at the expense of Mexico.
Here’s a full round-up of how the Netherlands have fared throughout this tournament and a look towards that enticing quarter-final clash with the Costa Ricans.
Likely Line-Up vs. Costa Rica:
What have they done well?
Van Gaal has taken a common sense approach to this tournament, taking stock of the kinds of players he has and implementing a system to accentuate the talents of as many of them as possible. The result has been a 5-2-1-2 formation, centred around three central defenders that are comfortable on the ball and possess a rounded blend of attributes.
The midfield is tailored towards getting the ball into the front-two as often as possible. Nigel de Jong—while he looks set to miss the rest of the tournament—blocks the middle off with his supreme defensive instincts, Jonathan de Guzman uses his energy maintain a degree of balance in an area where the Dutch are often outnumbered, and Sneijder uses his playmaking abilities to get the ball into the front-two in dangerous areas.
And it’s in those advanced positions that the Netherlands have really hurt teams; when the opposition are high up the pitch and the Oranje implement those swift transitions. Arjen Robben has been scintillating in the tournament so far and seems to be revelling in his role as an orthodox centre-forward. His blistering surges in turn create space for Robin van Persie, who has been back to his prolific best at this World Cup.