Match Notes – Netherlands v. Costa Rica

 

The Dutch were aggressive, but had no sense of urgency throughout the match. After all, they’ve got Robben and Van Perse. From beginning to end, Arjen Robben attacked. And attacked. He created opportunities that the Ticos shut down. Every single time. Costa Rica had a few opportunities, with youngster Joel Campbell creating several of them. (It’s hard to call Campbell an “Arsenal man,” even though the side owns him, since he’s never played for them, having been loaned out to several clubs. We’ll see if Wenger brings him to Emirates this year.)h

Dutch attack, Navas saves. Dutch attack, the back line clears. Van Persie gets a ball, but the Ticos stepped up on him, offside. And again. Then Lens. Back to RVP. Robben still feeding balls in via corner kicks and crosses, only for them to be punched out or to have a Tico step up and clear.

Still, 60′ no urgency among the Dutch. 70′, still the same. Costa Rica began to run out of gas. Ruiz made a few breaks, only to get chopped down by an incredibly tough defense.

And so it went, up to 90′ and stoppage. Then 105′ and stoppage. At 111′, Dutch striker Klass Jan Huntelaar entered play. He couldn’t repeat the magic he created against Mexico. Then, at 120′, just before stoppage after the second extra time period, Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was replaced by his backup, Tim Krul. Stoppage runs out and the match goes to kicks from the penalty spot.

But here’s the thing. Instead of having their starting goalkeeper, who’s played 120′ on the pitch, the Dutch put in a ringer, a specialist. Barring a major catastrophe, a backup keeper warms the bench. Not just for a single match, but for the entire tournament. Even when you’re beating the crap out of a team, you leave in the keeper, so they can get the “clean sheet,” the shutout. For kicks, though, is a guy who’s given it all for regulation plus extra time a good idea?

Not when you’ve got a specialist.

In the Women’s World Cup Final, 2011, Japan’s keeper, Ayumi Kaihori, blocked THREE kicks by USA players. All I could think while watching her performance was, “She’s studied them. She’s watched a lot of tape.” She knew where the Americans would kick. So did Krul.

And the Dutch go on to take on Argentina.

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