Holland and Costa Rica both progressed from their round of 16 elimination matches. Both made it difficult for themselves with goals right at the death of normal time.
The Netherlands started their game with Mexico as if their shoes were loaded with lead. They laboured to the water break at 30 minutes and seemed completely disinterested in the task at hand. In fact it would be fair and accurate to say Mexico looked the favourites from kick-off.
Giovani dos Santos scored almost from the start of the second half with a spectacular drive low into the corner, easily beating Cillessen. The Dutch threatened every now and then with a speedy run by Robben but with very little else.
Shouts for penalties from both sides were dismissed by the referee, although they looked like legitimate claims with the benefit of slow motion action replays. The Dutch picked up the pace from the 65th minute and looked to be up for it as the teams headed to the second water break. Van Gaal must have rehearsed something sublime because the Dutch never looked like losing the game from here on.
Van Persie was subbed after a listless performance where he roamed the opposing half almost alone for the first hour. Huntelaar his replacement was immediately involved in a goal as he headed a corner down for Wesley Sneijder to thunder home a low volley from the edge of the area.
Sneijder who has looked hopelessly out of form redeemed his selection with an excellent finish to level matters. The Dutch pressed further up the field with substitute Memphis Depay impressing again. The matches with water breaks have 3 minutes added to each half and in this additional time, Robben beat his man on the right wing and then pulled the ball back from the goal line before falling theatrically to the ground after a rather soft contact.
Huntelaar stepped up and despite all attempts from the Mexicans to put him off he buried his shot sensationally into the bottom left corner. Game over.
Costa Rica – Greece
Possibly the game that evokes the least emotion for me. Costa Rica are a tiny nation performing well above expectation and mainly on the back of the goals of Brian Ruiz. Greece can barely score a goal all tournament and frankly I don’t think they deserved to qualify from the groups but they did and this fixture took place.
Unless you were somehow involved by allegiance this fixture would be aptly described as a snore-fest. Ruiz scored a great goal and for most of the game it looked like it might be enough to see Costa Rica through to the next round.
Throw in an absolutely horrific refereeing performance and suddenly a no contest match sees Costa Rica reduced to 10 men with half an hour to play. Add a yellow for a coach and another player on the bench for who knows what and you get an idea that the referee was trying to make his own name rather than let the football speak. (7 yellows & 1 red card)
Understandably Costa Rica were on the back foot for the remaining 30 minutes of normal time and Greece managed to score from a rebounded effort with no more than 30 seconds remaining. Another 30 minutes of extra time were unlikely to make this a memorable fixture and penalties followed.
Costa Rica go through to the next round 5-3. Somewhat unlucky for the Greeks considering but in the end probably the right result.