Costa Rica (pictured) poses for a team photo prior to its FIFA World Cup opener against Uruguay on June 14, 2014, in Fortaleza, Brazil. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
SALVADOR, Brazil – Making its first appearance in the World Cup quarterfinals, Costa Rica is set to face the Netherlands, the 2010 runner-up, on Saturday at the Arena Fonte Nova.
Here are Three Points to consider ahead of the game:
1) The Ticos are brimming with belief
Costa Rica’s success at the 2014 World Cup has been of the tournament’s top storylines. After being paired alongside three former champions -- Uruguay, Italy and England -- the Ticos were a revelation in the group stage, managing to outshine their more heralded opposition and earn themselves the top spot in Group D. In the round of 16 against Greece, the current Central American champion put forth another brave performance. Playing with just 10 men for almost an hour, Costa Rica held firm in extratime, before putting on a clinic in the penalty shootout to book its place in the quarterfinals. With manager Jorge Luis Pinto pulling all the right strings and a united fan base in support, the Ticos will be in a confident mood ahead of their clash with the Dutch.
2) Can Keylor Navas keep it up?
Facing a Netherlands attack that has scored a tournament-high 12 goals, Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas will need to come up big if his side is going to progress to the semifinals. Led by a trinity of world-class attackers in Robin Van Persie (Manchester United), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich) and playmaker Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), the Dutch are fearsome going forward and will provide a huge test for the Costa Rican defense. While Navas has been arguably the best goalkeeper of the tournament, the Ticos disciplined backline also has been strong, playing a high-line that has raised more offsides flags than any other team in Brazil. If Costa Rica is going to advance, Navas and company will have to be outstanding.
3) Campbell and Ruiz will need to take their chances
While the Netherlands will look to control possession during Saturday’s showdown, it will be imperative for Costa Rica that captain Bryan Ruiz and rising-star Joel Campbell make the most of their opportunities. Ruiz has been fantastic for the Ticos, playing box to box, dictating the tempo and getting forward with regularity to create problems for opposing defenders. Campbell, on the other hand, is full of pace and has spent much of the tournament playing isolated up top as a lone striker in Pinto’s 5-4-1 system. Armed with a powerful left foot, Campbell has the potential to be a difference maker against a defense that has conceded four goals in as many games.