World Cup watchers have endured a long wait for a quarterfinals standard: a member of the bourgeoisie versus one from the proletariat. Now the two days of doubleheaders conclude with a face-off of teams from different soccer strata.
By any name, the Netherlands/Holland/Dutch own the superior pedigree. Three times this team has reached the Cup finals, though never won. Its roster is sprinkled with recognizable stars, and most teams would be delighted to send out one scoring threat comparable to the Dutch's pair, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, who are complemented by Wesley Sneijder.
Costa Rica might be the runt of the litter, but it is barking up a storm. Under Coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who learned the "total football" concept at the knee of innovative former Dutch coach Rinus Michels, the Costa Ricans have adroitly pulled off a 4-5-1 alignment that emphasizes a packed-in defense and counter-attacks for delivering the ball to fleet forward Joel Campbell in an eye-blink. It helps to have a goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, who displays no physical weakness and, more importantly, no fear.
Navas might get the feeling that the field is tilted downward in his direction. The Dutch are scoring at a three-goals-per-game rate while turning the World Cup stadiums into shooting galleries. On the other side, in some matches Costa Rica has been fortunate to surpass three tries on goal.
Nothing about the Netherlands is more impressive than a knack for coming from behind. Rallies from one-goal deficits have become routine, with three such comebacks for wins.
As precise as Costa Rica has been in exercising Pinto's game plan, it's a clear underdog, the only one in the elite eight match-ups. The team names on the scoreboard might as well read "David" and "Goliath."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun