Brilliant Navas Helps Costa Rica to First Ever Quarter Final, The Netherlands’ Late Fightback- 29/06/14

The second day of matches from the last 16 saw the other teams who had progressed from groups A-D in action, with all hoping to progress to the quarter final stage. The Netherlands, who were largely comfortable on the way to topping the group which included a slaughtering of defending champions Spain, faced a Mexico side that looked dangerous in the group stages. The other match was between two teams who have shocked many as the underdogs, as Costa Rica had topped the group ahead of three nations who had a huge footballing reputation, and their opponents Greece stunned the Ivory Coast with a last minute penalty that put them through as runners-up of Group D.

Netherlands 2-1 Mexico

Two goals right at the death put the Netherlands through against a gutsy Mexican side after going behind early in the second half. Before that, Mexico had a chance when a series of good passes in the penalty area led to a low shot from Hector Herrera being dragged just wide from just inside the box. Mexico remained on top for most of the half, and a cheeky effort from Carlos Salcido from just inside the Netherlands half had to be pushed behind for a corner by goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. A brilliant sliding tackle in the penalty area by Rafael Marquez then prevented Arjen Robben from going clean on goal, though replays showed that the Mexican player made very little, if any, contact with the ball as the first half finished goalless.

The second half started with a bang as Mexico took the lead against their supposedly higher ranked opposition, with Giovani Dos Santos taking advantage of slightly relaxed defending from the Dutch to score a memorable goal with a low shot from 25 yards out. The Netherlands tried to respond, and only yet another world class save from Guillermo Ochoa, who has so far been brilliant in the tournament, deflected Stefan de Vrij’s volley onto the post and away to safety. Robben was then denied by the legs of Ochoa as the Netherlands continued to be frustrated by the in-form keeper. But when it looked as though there would be yet another shock departure in the early stages of this tournament, a Dutch corner was headed into the path of Wesley Sneijder, and he duly obliged by thumping an unstoppable strike past the stranded Ochoa to put his side back on level terms with just three minutes remaining. But with extra-time rapidly approaching, Mexico’s World Cup hopes crumbled when their captain Marquez made slight contact with a darting Robben, to which the referee gave a potentially soft penalty decision. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar then stepped up to convert the penalty in the dying seconds of the match to deny the hard working Mexicans their first World Cup quarter final in 28 years.

arjen-robben-penalty

Dive or No Dive?: Arjen Robben falling to the floor in the box leads to the winning penalty for the Netherlands

Costa Rica 1-1 Greece (Costa Rica won 5-3 on penalties)

Ten-man Costa Rica produced a brilliant penalty shootout display to progress to the quarter finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history at the expense of Greece. The game was a quiet affair in the first half hour with neither team really having a clear opportunity on goal. With ten minutes left in the half, Dimitris Salpingidis was denied a goal when his volley from close range was well saved by the legs of the Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Both teams were guilty of poor passing which kept chances at a minimum, with only a Giorgos Karagounis long range effort that was comfortably saved being worthy of a mention.

Greece started the second half well but Giorgos Samaras directed his header from a Jose Holebas cross straight at Navas from only six yards out. That miss would prove decisive when Costa Rica broke forward down the left side and Christian Bolanos pulled the ball back for Bryan Ruiz, whose cheeky toe poke on the edge of the area found the corner of the net with keeper Orestis Karnezis left stranded on the spot. Costa Rica then could have had a penalty when the ball struck the arm of Vasilis Torosidis from a cross, however the referee did not spot the handball. But then the match turned on its head when Oscar Duarte was sent off for a second bookable offence with nearly half an hour left to play, and Greece took advantage of the extra man to pull themselves level. In the dying minutes of the match, Theofanis Gekas twisted in the penalty area and sent a low shot towards goal that Navas saved, but only as far as Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who fired the ball into the back of the net with the keeper stranded on the floor. Greece were level, and they nearly found a shock winner with just seconds left, but Navas did well to tip Konstantinos Mitroglou’s header over the bar. Navas was again the hero in extra time, making saves from both Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Mitroglou to force the game to penalties. Both teams had scored their first three penalties and just after Costa Rica had converted their fourth penalty, Gekas’ attempt was saved by the brilliant Navas which gave Michael Umana the chance to win the match. He duly converted the penalty to put Costa Rica through to the quarter finals for the first time in their history, where they will play The Netherlands.

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