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Lionel Messi doesn’t take up much space on the field, given that he’s all of 5-ft.-7 in. tall, if that. Then again, he doesn’t need much. Messi is one of those performers who, like a sunbeam splitting through thickening clouds, produces a moment of brilliance when things are getting dark. He did it against Nigeria, Iran and Switzerland to keep Argentina marching toward the final.
Argentina is likely to need such a Messi moment to be able to win its third World Cup title in this, its third World Cup final against Germany. The Argentines won 3-2 in 1986 on the chubby legs of Diego Maradona, equal parts devil and delight in that tournament, delivering the pass that created his team’s winning goal, and enshrining himself in his nation’s history.
Four years later, a fading Maradona and Argentine team got rolled by a multitalented German team that included current U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann. It was a match widely considered to be one of the worst finals ever because Argentina went into a defensive shell, never to emerge. Too bad only one team came to play, noted the acerbic German coach Franz Beckenbauer after the game.
You couldn’t blame current Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella one bit if he were tempted by that approach this Sunday at the famed Maracanã stadium. Given the way Germany stormed past Brazil 7-1—with multiple scorers and multiple points of attack— taking shelter could prove the wiser strategy than throwing caution to the wind.
Please don’t, Alejandro. This World Cup final deserves both teams on full display at both ends of the pitch. We certainly know that Argentina can defend. Against the Netherlands in the semifinal, a Javier Mascherano-marshaled back line repelled Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin Van Persie as if they were tropical mosquitos, leaving Dirk Kuyt to launch clueless crosses to nowhere.
That was by design.
“They think about what they’re doing and they’re not easy to break down,” noted the French great Bixente Lizarazu, a World Cup winning defender about the Albiceleste. “Their forwards’ speed, liveliness and technical ability are impressive, but what has struck me the most about them is the way they break up their opponents’ rhythm.”
Without Angel di Maria in the lineup against the Netherlands due to injury, Argentina clearly lost some of its own rhythm. The Dutch supplied Messi with a pair of escorts whenever he got on the ball and Germany will pay similar attention. DiMaria’s ability to exploit defenders with his speed down the flank has to be respected–which could yield the little man a little more breathing room. If di Maria isn’t available, the return of a fully Sergio Agüero will also make things easier for Messi.
“But we can’t burden him with all that responsibility,” said Argentina’s Maxi Rodriguez. “We know he’s a game changer, but we have to support him. The upside is that the group is well drilled: everyone knows their role, “
Argentina might profit by considering the two teams that gave Germany fits in this World Cup: Ghana, which drew 2-2 with them in the group stage, and Algeria, which went out 2-1 in extra time in the round of 16. Both teams shared a go-flat-out philosophy of pressuring the Germans all over the park, and attacking wide and furiously. It worked so well that Germany coach Joachim Low had to change formations and move Philipp Lahm back into defense from midfield.
This approach for Argentina would not be without risk. “The German outside wingers will track defensively for the entire match,” says former Iranian assistant coach Dan Gaspar, whose team lost 1-0 to Argentina. “My concern about Argentina is that when they fly forward their tendency is not to have the same willingness to recover as the Germans. As a result, Argentina may find itself down in numbers defensively.”
And that, notes Gaspar, is a very bad thing.
In scoring four goals against Portugal and seven more against Brazil, Germany’s midfield trio of Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos demonstrated how quickly it converts defense into attack. At the same time Miroslav Klose was able to set the World Cup career scoring record. Germany is about options, all of them good.
“I think Germany can and will contain Messi,” notes Gaspar. “And they will be able to pierce the Argentina midfield and defense through the middle unlike the Dutch, who only seemed to play from the wings in the semifinal”
But like a lot of fans, he’s also pulling for La Pulga, the flea, as Messi is known. The four-time world player of the year will always be one of the greatest players the game has known. But there’s nothing like a World Cup trophy to confirm it.
heels of a cautiously played draw with the Netherlands
that was decided in a shootout.
However, while they are playing in Brazil with a measure of home-field advantage and boast the world’s best player, they are the betting underdog facing Germany, who dismantled host Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals.
Argentina is a significant underdog in the World Cup final, currently sitting at 5-2 at most sportsbooks tracked by Odds Shark. The Germans were 13-10 with a draw line (after 90 minutes) priced at 9-4.
Here are five reasons why Argentina can pull off the upset and win the World Cup final.
While Argentina is known for their attack, featuring Lionel Messi and company, the defense is the reason why they are in the final. In the three knockout-stage matches, Argentina has not allowed a single goal.
In the semis, they shut down the Netherlands' solid attack and kept Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben from scoring. Only one of the past six World Cup finals has seen more than two goals, so under bettorsare focusing on the lines ahead of Sunday’s match.
While Lionel Messi has not scored in the last three matches, he leads Argentina in goals scored for the tournament and will get chances against Germany. He also has an outside shot at winning the Golden Boot if he can score twice, and he is the third betting choice at 12-1 to win the prestigious trophy.
Also, with Messi being the focus for the German defense, it affords other attacking players space around the box. That is good news for struggling Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.
Midfield Will Step Up
While Argentina is not as strong as Germany in the midfield, and they did not play great in that area against the Dutch, they have the talent and form to step up in the final. Their speed in the middle of the pitch will be key, and they must disrupt the German passing lanes.
The World Cup has been hosted in South America four times, and a South American team has won on each occasion (Uruguay in 1930 and 1950, Brazil in 1962, Argentina in 1978).
Home-continent advantage meant nothing for Brazil against Germany, but Argentina can get the crowd on its side with some early offensive flourishes.
Messi leads an Argentine attack that is mostly small and fast, and they can give the bigger and more physical Germany back line problems. Messi was thwarted in the match with the Netherlands and constantly flanked by one or two defenders.
But he has the skill to shed such attention and generate scoring chances for himself and his teammates.
Scotland's hopes were pretty much quashed from the
get-go, as when the two countries met in their opening
fixture, La Sele scored one of the great under-rated
World Cup goals. Sweeping upfield from deep in their
own half, Costa Rica rolled the ball to the left, then
triangulated at speed as they shuttled it over to the right.
Hector Marchena suddenly turned on the burners to sashay
infield at speed, then on the right-hand edge of the D shifted
the ball inside for Claudio Jara, who backheeled a defence-
splintering pass to Cayasso, cutting in from the left. Cayasso
met the ball first time, and poked it past Jim Leighton. A pitch-
length passing move that swayed from wing to wing, ending in
a goal set up by a backheel! This one should be on more showreels.
Costa Rica went on to make it to the second round , where they were dispatched by Czechoslovakia but not shamed. And that was their best performance at a World Cup. Until now. Jorge Luis Pinto's side have been a revelation at Brasil '14. They've seen off three former world champions - seven titles between Uruguay, Italy and England - to win their group. Their signature victory in that first round, over Italy, has been strangely underplayed, a snook cocked to football's supposed natural order right up there with North Korea '66, South Korea '02, and Haiti taking the lead in '74. Equally impressive was how their ten men dug in when all looked lost against a resolute Greece in the second round. And so now, thanks to the goals of Bryan Ruiz, the saves of Keylor Navas and the tireless running of Joel Campbell, they're in their first-ever World Cup quarter-final.
Holland stand in their way. This is the first time the two teams have met, so there's no historical baggage here. The Dutch are, of course, three times beaten finalists, and looking to go one better than their performance of 2010, when they reached the final and, well, that's best forgotten. But Louis van Gaal's side, while not exactly the Total Footballists of the Seventies, have added a little flair to the mix again. They'll b e hot favourites tonight as a result. Arjen Robben might be a saucy bugger, going to ground a little too easily every now and then, but he's also been one of the stars of this tournament, his electrifying pace and ball-on-a-string skill having been too much for reigning champions Spain, Australia, Chile and Mexico. Robin van Persie meanwhile scored one of the goals of the tournament, that astonishing header against the Spanish. And the Dutch, top scorers here with 12 goals, have won 10 of their 11 last World Cup games, the only defeat during that run coming in the 2010 final. They're the form horse. Could it finally, finally, finally be their year?
A semi-final against Argentina — a repeat of the 1978 final —awaits Holland, if they get through this. Costa Rica meanwhile are hoping to become the first virgin semi-finalists since South Korea and Turkey made the last four in 2002. There's much to play for! It's the World Cup quarter final! It's on!
Kick off: 5pm at the Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Bahia; 10pm in Amsterdam; 2pm in San José, 9pm in London.
According to the Guardian style guide, Holland "should not be used to mean the Netherlands (of which it is a region), with the exception of the Dutch football team, who are conventionally known as Holland". So there you have it. Hup Holland Hup!
Holland: Cillessen, De Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Depay, Wijnaldum , Blind, Kuyt, Sneijder, van Persie, Robben.|
Subs: Vorm, De Jong, Janmaat, de Guzman, Verhaegh, Veltman, Kongolo, Clasie, Lens, Fer, Huntelaar, Krul.
A couple of changes for Holland to the XI named against Mexico in the second round, with striker Memphis Depay and central defender Bruno Martins Indi in the starting line-up. They replace the injured midfielder Nigel de Jong and perfectly fit left back Paul Verhaegh. It's an attacking gambit by Louis van Gaal, I'll be bound*. Meanwhile Costa Rica name Johnny Acosta in the place of suspended defender Oscar Duarte. Both teams are playing 3-4-3. Or 3-2-2-3, or 3-2-2-2-1, depending on how pedantically you interpret the diagrams onthe official Fifa tactical line-up documentation. Does it make much, or indeed any, difference? Of course not! Eleven men running about. They're pulling the wool over your eyes, people! It's meant to be fun, it's not double maths.
* I'll not be legally bound
A bit of footage on the television of Louis van Gaa l wandering onto the pitch to have a little look around before the match. He was sauntering down the tunnel with his wonderful trademark mix of insouciance, aloofness and healthy arrogance, the sort all the best managers have. He's got one hand in his pocket. And the other one might as well be giving the V sign. He's got a dip in his hip and a glide in his stride, strutting along in a gentle I-own-this-stadium rhythm. He clearly fancies this tonight. I wonder if he's started to dream about becoming a World Cup winning manager? You couldn't blame him. It's there for the taking, for nobody in this competition is any good whatsoever!
The teams are out! First, la platitudes de Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Don't be bad to eac h other, kids, is the general thrust. Which is fair enough. And then the national anthems. Holland's is a hymn, really, isn't it . I suppose that's the point of national anthems, a paean to the motherland. It's not very jaunty, though. A bit of a dirge, in fact, which belies the laid-back national image. The 2010 final as dots on a stave. Costa Rica's effort is much more enjoyable, built around the sort of elbow-rocking swing that could get an evening in a bierkeller going at a fair old whip. A Total Anthem. It would suit the Dutch, actually.
And we're off! Holland are in their famous oranje, while Costa Rica wear their change strip, white with a red sas h across the shoulder. Costa Rica kick off, but quickly lose possession. Holland tear forward through Depay down the left. The ball's rolled across the front of the box. Umana hoofs clear. Just in time, too, with Robben racing in with a view to shooting first time. A lively start, but not necessarily one Costa Rica would have appreciated.
3 min: It's pretty much all Holland right now. Everyone happy to get a feel of the ball in the midfield. Nothing really happening otherwise. Gary Ashdown has been eyeing the pic of Big Louis: "Stewart Lee's let himself go, no?" This is the Guardian, we're contractually obliged to mention him at some point.
4 min: Costa Rica move forward for the first time in the match , through Bolanos. And he's upended by De Vrij down the inside-left channel. The free kick's hoicked towards the far post from 40 yards out by Ruiz, but with too much juice , and Campbell can't reach it. Out on the right. Costa Rica hardly loaded the box there.
6 min: Robben has his first serious run at the Costa Rican defence, down the left. Costa Rica backtrack. Robben flicks the ball out wide left to Depay, who lumps a fairly agricultural cross towards the far stick, where Van Persie miscontrols. He's offside too. Half a chance to carve something out goes to waste.
8 min: Robben at speed down the right now. Gonzalez is forced to step in and concede a corner, just as the winger threatens to break into the box. The corner is a laughable piece of nonsense, and back at the feet of Cillessen within ten seconds of it being taken. Not what was planned, one can assume.
11 min: It's mainly Holland, as you'd expect. Robben attempting to come at the Costa Ricans from all angles . But no great scares for the underdogs yet. "I never realised Gordon Strachan was young and unsurly once," writes Joseph Rega of our preamble star. "But that is a bit of a resemblance to Messi, isn't it? Did Scotland play in Argentina in '87?" It's a lovely idea, mental images of Wee Gordy making the beast with two backs notwithstanding. But even if it were true, Scotland can't stake a claim, Wee Lionel's committed to Argentina now. They'll just have to wait for Ryan Gauld to blossom. No pressure!
13 min: A bit of possession for Costa Rica. Ruiz is close to one-twoing his way through the Dutch defence down the inside right, with Balanos, but the ball's intercepted. Van Persie zips down the other end of the pitch, but his attempt to spring Depay clear down the left wing is misdirected. Not a classic yet, but there's plenty of time.
14 min: Robben, van Persie and Kuyt triangulate down the right. It's a crisp passage of play, and Kuyt's in space along the wing. His cross is dismally overhit, though. Holland not quite clicking yet.
16 min: For a split second, it looked like Borges was going to break clear on goal. De Vrij hacked a hapless clearance upfield under a little pressure from Ruiz. Borges picks up possession and bombs down the centre. He attempts to drop a shoulder to beat the last man, Vlaar, to the right, but miscontrols. Hearts in Dutch mouths, though. Costa Rica are looking fairly comfortable at the moment.
18 min: Plenty of Costa Rican possession right now. The crowd, on the whole, seem pretty happy to see this, and holler accordingly. Bolanos attempts to thread a pass from the left to Campbell in the Dutch box, but the angles are al l wrong. Costa Rica will be very pleased to continue in this manner, getting deeper into the game without conceding, with a view to seeing what happens then.
20 min: Campbell and Gamboa ping a couple of passes down the right, the latter fizzing in a low cross that's easily cleared by Martins Indi. Throw. Gamboa takes an age to take it, much to the referee's annoyance. All part of a plan? Holland are a little subdued at the moment.
22 min: Fine play by Holland here. Kuyt is sent down the right by a lovely reverse pass from Robben. He pulls a low ball back to the edge of the area for Depay, who takes a touch and instead of shooting, shifts it left to van Persie in space. The striker hammers a low shot straight at Navas from a tight angle. Parry. The ball rebounds to Sneijder, 20 yards out. He takes a touch to the right and hits another shot straight at the keeper, who gathers. Poor finishing, all told, bu t a lovely crisp passing move to open Costa Rica up.
23 min: Robben runs at Costa Rica with extreme prejudice down the inside right, but is never in total control and his eventual shot is weak.
24 min: Sneijder scoops a pitching-wedge pass down the inside-left channel. Depay is clear on goal, but he's offside. After a quiet period, Holland are working up a head of steam here.
25 min: Kuyt in more space down the right. His low cross into the area should be sidefooted home by van Persie from ten yards, but the striker takes a fresh-air swipe, and is offside in any case. Millimetres in that. The offside decision, that is, the fresh-air swipe was out by a matter of feet.
27 min: Sneijder barges Ruiz in the back as the pair contest a loose ball down the left, Martins Indi having put Holland under a bit of needless pressure with a poor blind pass. Free kick, in a dangerous position, as Costa Rica can load the box. Bolanos hooks the set piece to the far post. Borges goes up but can't meet the ball with his head. Martins Indi was a bit hands on there, you've seen penalties given for that sort of wrestling. You've seen them not given, too, mind you, and that's what's happened here. To be fair to the referee, Costa Rica aren't moaning much about it.
28 min: A nice end-to-end feel about this, all of a sudden. Van Persie down the Dutch inside left. Depay to his left in a bit of space. He's fed the ball by an unselfish van Persie, and unleashes a low shot goalwards. Navas is in no mood to be beaten at his near post. A brilliant parry denies the Dutch striker.
31 min: Martins Indi is putting himself about, and not necessarily within the laws of association football. He bundles over Gamboa in the middle of the park. Costa Rican free kick, hoicked down the right. Campbell battles on the edge of the area, but loses possession. But Costa Rica are soon coming back at Holland, and van Persie is forced to clank into the back of Tejeda, 35 yards out. Costa Rica load the box. Bolanos steps up, and ...
32 min: ... sends a dreadful free kick straight into the arms of Cillessen. Holland romp upfield, Robben challenging for a high ball on the edge of the Costa Rican box. But he's penalised, rather harshly, as Gonzalez falls over.
35 min: Another free kick to Costa Rica, down the inside right. The ball's looped to Borges at the left-hand post, and he nearly manages to rotate his body under severe pressure to bundle home. He can't, though, and Holland break upfield through Robben, who is unfairly stopped in his tracks by Gamboa. Were it not for the Robben diving furore of the last week, Gamboa would probably be in the book for that, but the Dutch star opts not to make a meal of it, and the referee goes easy. The resulting free kick, with the Costa Rican box loaded, is a risible disgrace.
37 min: Diaz shoves Robben's back as he slaloms down the middle of the park. Free kick, 30 yards out, centrally. Diaz is booked, quite rightly. Robben and Sneijder stand over the set piece. They step up, and ...
38 min: ... Robben dummies, allowing Sneijder to curl a gorgeous effort towards the top left. It's going in, but Navas extends himself to tip the ball acrobatically round the post. What a shot! What a save! The finest football of the half, the Robben-Kuyt-Depay-van Persie combination of 22 min apart. Nothing comes from the corner, but that's enough entertainment for now, let's not be greedy.
41 min: A lot of Dutch possession, but they're forced to enjoy it in the midfield. De Vrij gets fed up, and lumps a simpleton's ball down the middle. Robben takes it down, then fresh-air swipes as he looks to shoot from the edge of the box. Hmm. This is not great.
42 min: This is nice from Holland, though. Robben slides a can-opener of a pass down the inside-left channel, and van Persie is chasing after the ball, free in the area! But the superlative Navas is quick off his line, and smothers at van Persie's feet. It's a perfectly timed save, as it had to be. Van Persie tumbles over, but in fairness isn't looking for a thing; the keeper got there first, and got there fairly. Nice football all round.
45 min: Van Persie might have left a boot in on Umana. There was certainly a coming together, but the rights and wrongs aren't clear yet. The Costa Rican bench aren't happy, though, and are up as one to berate the referee. They're demanding action. About what? No idea. Action replays, so popular when introduced at the 1966 World Cup, seem to have fallen out of fashion at the 2014 edition. Are we all that jaded?
HALF TIME: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica
Everyone trudges off, as well they might. This hasn't been the worst game, but it's far from the best. A step up in quality for the second half, please, everyone! It's a World Cup going on here. And its reputation is, let's be honest with ourselves and face facts, in the balance.
The taste of the low countries, as brewed in Faversham.
And we're off again! Holland get the ball rolling for what is hopefully a better second 45. "If this was a cheese World Cup," begins Jon Wilde, in extremely promising fashion, "you'd reckon that Holland would do anArbroath v Bon Accord and see off Costa Rica 36-0 or thereabouts. But you'd be wrong. My auntie Pam returned from Costa Rica a few years ago and presented me with a feta-like, strangely-tangy cojita cheese that had the beating of any Edam, Gouda or Limburger I've ever tasted. So, in cheese terms: Holland 0 Costa Rica 1." If this was a cheese World Cup, what's being served up tonight is casu marzu.
I'm not asking for much. A nice slice of mild cheddar for the second half will suffice.
47 min: Campbell clips a lovely ball down the left wing for Borges to run onto. He whips a first-time cross into the area. Cillessen gathers high under the bar, under no pressure whatsoever. A fine atmosphere in the stadium but at the moment the fans are making their own entertainment.
50 min: All a bit scrappy, this. Costa Rica are as comfortable as they could be. Pictures of scrap, anyone? There'll be good pictures in our Gallery, good pictures of great scrap.
52 min: Robben goes down as he races along the right wing, and it's fair to say he didn't dive this time, clattered in a pincer movement by Diaz and Umana. Diaz is already booked, and lucky to escape a second yellow for his block on Robben, but Umana goes in the notebook for the initial trip. Free kick in a very dangerous position, just outside the area on the right wing.
53 min: Kuyt shapes to curl in a high ball, but it's a disguise. He pulls a low ball across the front of the area. Sneijder scores three rugby union points. A fairly dismal effort.
56 min: Van Persie dances down the right, and wins a corner off Gonzales. Robben whips it to the far post, where De Vrij is in a bit of space. But his header is lame and misdirected, and Costa Rica clear. A decent chance, that. "I said to my wife this morning, 'Gee, I hope I can get through the Guardian's text feed for Holland-Costa Rica without having to see a picture of insect larva munching on cheese'," writes the picky Richard Warner. "Oh, Scott, you've gone and dashed my dreams." Sorry. I suppose you should just be thankful this isn't the tea-time kick-off.
58 min: Sneijder rakes a stunning diagonal pass towards the right touchline for Robben, who does spectacularly well to keep the ball in play while chasing after it at full tilt. He zips along the byline from a position near the corner flag, and nearly finds Kuyt free at the near post. Holland are turning up the pressure a bit here.
60 min: Another left-to-right diagonal pass by Sneijder. This one's all out of whack, but Diaz panics and bundles it behind for a corner with nooranje shirt near him. Robben's corner isn't up to much. Then Costa Rica race up the other end, Campbell down the left. Campbell reaches the byline, then pulls the ball back towards Diaz, who is knocked over from the back by the clumsy Martins Indi. Not much contact there, but some referees would give that. Again, Costa Rica don't complain much, which is usually a sign. But Martins Indi wants to watch himself, he appears to be in Galoot Mode tonight.
62 min: Free kick for Costa Rica, 35 yards out, just to the right of centre. They're having a decent spell here. Bolanos makes an awful song and dance about waving at his team-mates, who are gathered at the left-hand post. Sure enough, it's a con, and he blooters a shot towards the top right. Incredibly ambitious, that, and miles over the bar to boot.
63 min: Sneijder rolls a pass down the inside-left channel to release van Persie into the Costa Rica area. The striker's gone too early, and the flag goes up before he can gets a shot away.
64 min: In the least surprising development of the night, Martins Indi is booked for pointless clumsiness. He's all over Ruiz, and that's a yellow card. The free kick from the right wing, 35 yards out, is whipped to the far post by Bolanos, and Gonzalez gets a head onto it. The effort flies over the bar. Good defending by Vlaar, who put the pressure on there, but Holland want to watch themselves here. They're not playing well at all.
66 min: Urena comes on for Campbell, who doesn't look at all happy at being hooked. Here's Jon Wilde again: "Not wishing to labour the point but, if this was a cheese World Cup, Wales (honest to goodness, strong Cheddar) would beat Canada (Lankaaster) in the final on penalties. In football terms, a Wales v Canada final is not likely to happen in my lifetime or, indeed, anyone else's. Good cheese though."
68 min: Robben zips down the right and cuts inside, one-twoing with van Persie and cocking his leg to shoot. But Tejeda intercepts and concedes a corner. Fine attack and defence. There's a mild stramash in the area from the set piece, but eventually van Persie is flagged offside. Again. A bit better from both teams, though. I've upgraded this match from casu marzu to Dairylea cheese slice.
70 min: Gamboa goes up for a high ball with Blind. Perfectly innocent, but Gamboa lands awkwardly. Might have turned an ankle, but you know Dr Murray, the Guardian MBM medical correspondent, he's a right old quack who doesn't know what he's talking about. Gamboa's stretchered off, but after a bit of a rest he doesn't appear in too much pain, he might be OK.
71 min: Gamboa's back on!
72 min: Bolanos breaks clear down the left. Nearly. He's got a split second to get a shot away, a step or two inside the area, but indecision is his enemy. Both teams will be feeling the nerves now as the clock runs down, though Costa Rica may have decided they've got less to lose.
74 min: Gamboa, refreshed and fully fit, attempts to high kick Blind down the left wing. Free kick. Sneijder teases in a lovely set piece, which Vlaar meets with purpose. But his strong header flies over the bar.
76 min: Lens comes on for Depay, who has faded badly. "If Jon Wilde is saying that a Welsh Cheddar would beat a Tasty Lancashire in the Cheese World Cup then I'm afraid I may have to ask him to step outside," writes Phil Sawyer, the first instance of serious hooliganism at this World Cup threatening to break out. Over cheese. "Except, of course, that Lancashire would need to declare itself a separate country to be eligible. Speaking as a Lancashire lad, this would not be an unpopular move in the land of the Red Rose."
78 min: Turns out Dr Murray really is an old quack, and Gamboa is jiggered. He's stretchered off with some sort of jarring of the leg, and will be replaced by Myrie. "The problem with Jon Wilde's suggestion is, although we Welsh fellas do indeed make the best cheddar, it's essentially an English cheese," writes Matt Dony. "And joint ownership simply isn't allowed, as Sheffield United still bang on about. This game is more like American cheese in a can."
80 min: Kuyt in a bit of space down the right. He whips a high cross into the box, where Lens powers a header towards the top right. Navas saves in spectacular fashion, a wonderful parry, and the flag's up anyway.
81 min: Robben turns Gonzalez brilliantly down the left, on the edge of the penalty area. Gonzalez tugs him to the floor. Robben falls in the area, but the foul was outside the box. Free kick. Gonzalez is rightly booked, and will miss the semi should his country make it.
82 min: The free kick, just outside the Costa Rican area, on the far left. Sneijder takes a step, and curls a stunning free kick onto the left-hand post. The ball twangs back out and into the middle of the box. Plenty oforanje shirts, but it doesn't break to any of them. Costa Rica hack clear. Navas was beaten all ends up there. For once. Lucky, lucky Costa Rica!
84 min: Another free kick for Holland, to the right of the Costa Rican area. Robben takes. Van Persie and Kuyt make nuisances of themselves at the near post. Bedlam, bedlam, bedlam. What a stramash! Navas gets a block in as van Persie whips a shot in from a tight position on the right, and Costa Rica clear. This game has suddenly exploded into life!
85 min: Van Persie very nearly brings a long ball down on the edge of the Costa Rican box. Holland not afraid to mix it up. He can't quite control. "American cheese in a can actually delivers when you want it," argues Kraft employee Scott Martin.
88 min: Plenty of love in the stadium for Costa Rica, who have been staunch. Can they hold on? It would look like it. And here's proof that it might not be Holland's night: Sneijder makes some space for himself on the left-hand edge of the Costa Rican box. He stands a pinpoint-perfect cross into the middle for van Persie, who is clear six yards out, with the ball gently dropping towards his feet. But the striker gets in an awful tangle, and his legs turn to pipe cleaners as they buckle under him. He wafts a boot at the ball, but it's nowhere near! What a fresh-air swipe! What a miss! That's Robin van Persie doing that. Very strange.
90 min: There will be four added minutes of this.
90 min +1: Just to the right of the Costa Rican box, Diaz sticks out a leg to challenge Robben. Contact. Robben goes over. Diaz should probably be awarded a second yellow - again! - but the referee looks kindly upon him. This free kick is in a very dangerous position, though. Van Persie steps up, and ...
90 min +2: ... sends the ball towards the top right. It's a brilliant effort, but Navas is right behind it to parry!
90 min +3: From that save, some more tumult in the Costa Rican area. A low cross from the left is met by van Persie, six yards out, at the far post. He blooters a low shot towards the bottom right. It's cleared off the line by Tejeda, but in the most ludicrous way imaginable! He kicks it straight in the air, nearly takes his own nose off, and the ball rattles off the bar! It really isn't van Persie's night. Not yet, anyway.
FULL TIME: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica
And that'll be extra time! A terrible game that exploded into life in the last ten minutes! How did Costa Rica survive that late onslaught? Not sure!
The end of that game was magnificent. A combination of Navas's brilliance, van Persie's profligacy, and Tejeda's luck. And Costa Rica, the 2,500-1 outsiders, are still in this World Cup!
And we're off again! Holland get the ball rolling for the first period of extra time. Another 30 minutes like those last ten would be just the ticket!
ET 2 min: Costa Rica looked spent at the turnaround, splayed across the turf. Louis van Gaal took a leaf out of Alf Ramsey's 1966 World Cup final winning book, telling his players to get up and look sprightly. The mind games appear to have worked, with Holland on the front foot again. Robben tears clear down the right wing but is unfairly pulled back for offside. He'd have been clear on goal there.
ET 4 min: Kuyt bustles down the right and wins a corner. Robben whips the set piece towards Vlaar on the penalty spot. Vlaar directs a clever header towards the bottom left, but is of course denied by Navas, who turns the ball away spectacularly. The resulting corner nearly sees the keeper run out of luck, as he flaps at the cross and misses. The loose ball's bouncing just wide of the left-hand post. Acosta attempts to bicycle kick the ball clear, but misses. The ball clanks off his knee and out for another corner.
ET 6 min: Navas clattered into Kuyt while flapping. For a second it looks like his heroics might be at an end, but after a lengthy delay, and a squeeze of the magic sponge, he's up again. Holland do nothing with the corner.
ET 7 min: Cubero comes on for Tejeda. Navas must be OK, because that's Costa Rica's three subs used.
ET 8 min: Costa Rica have a decent shout of a penalty here! Urena dribbles the ball into the Dutch area down the right. He's chasing the ball to the byline with Vlaar, who does brush the Costa Rican striker. Urena goes down looking for the penalty kick, but the referee isn't interested. File that under Seen Them Given But Would Have Been Harsh. Vlaar gives Urena a mouthful of abuse. File that under Chutzpah, given the controversy surrounding the Mexico game.
ET 11 min: Ruiz is down, after being clattered in the trouser arrangement by Martins Indi, tonight's star galoot. He's on a yellow too! Sneijder doesn't put the ball out and goes on a skitter down the left, and is fairly unhappy when the referee orders play to be stopped.
ET 12 min: Robben goes on a rococo ramble down the right wing. He whips a shot goalwards and sees it clank off Diaz's shoulder. The ref claims that's handball. Harsh. For a second, it looks like he's pulling out that second yellow, too, but it's only his Temporary Graffiti spray. Robben blasts the free kick into Urena's startled coupon. But the Costa Rican striker will take those all day, because that's the situation dealt with!
ET 14 min: Ruiz rolls a ball down the centre for Urena, who would have been clear on goal had his team-mate not overcooked the pass slightly.
ET 15 min: There will be two added minutes of this half. Costa Rica have, to be fair, fannying around quite a lot, taking their time at restarts, helping each other out with cramp, etc.
EXTRA TIME, HALF TIME: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica
Kuyt crosses from the right. Navas punches clear. And we're 15 minutes from penalty kicks! What tense entertainment this is!
And we're off again! Huntelaar comes on for the ludicrous Martins Indi. Costa Rica set the ball in motion once more. Costa Rica's Plan B is penalties, isn't it?" wonders Sarah Rothwell. "Worked pretty well last time." Yep, their spot kicks in the shootout against Greece were magnificent. Meanwhile the Dutch have been in five tournament shootouts - and have won only the once!
ET 17 min: Robben at high speed down the right. He looks to break into the area, but bangs into the back of Acosta. Was Acosta booked? Not clear! He shouldn't be, it looked clumsy but nothing more, and the pair clashed heads accidentally, so that'd be insult added to injury. The resulting free kick is far too deep, and hacked clear by Costa Rica.
ET 18 min: Robben and Kuyt causing more bother down the right. Another corner. And it's not a particularly good one, clanked out of play by Vlaar.
ET 19 min: Diaz takes about 30 seconds to get to a throw in. Holland aren't too happy about it. The crowd are certainly sympathising with Costa Rica, as you'd imagine they would.
ET 20 min: A long hoof downfield sees Urena nearly break clear into the Dutch area down the right! But the bounce isn't kind, allowing De Vrij to get in the road. Urena hooks the ball back in the hope there's a team-mate nearby, but no.
ET 21 min: Kuyt loops a cross in from the right. Huntelaar goes up with Navas. The keeper claims, despite getting a faceful of Huntelaar's fingers. The striker's booked, and the keeper is given an opportunity to waste a lot of time while being dabbed with the magic sponge.
ET 22 min: Tim Krul is going through his warm-up routine on the touchline. Will Louis van Gaal switch keepers if this goes to penalties?!
ET 23 min: Chances at either end! First Bolanos twists and turns down the right, and enters the area. He can't quite get a shot away, but for a second he threatened to open Holland up. Then down the field, Lens is sprung clear into the box down the left! He's one on one with Navas! But the keeper smothers! What a stunning save! Turns out Lens was offside, but Navas wasn't to know that!
ET 25 min: Bolanos has come alive! Now he's attacking Holland down the left - and upon entering the box, his shot is deflected out left for Costa Rica's first corner of the match!
ET 26 min: It wasn't worth waiting for. Bolanos loops it straight through the area and out of play on the right!
ET 27 min: Bolanos twists and turns down the middle of the park, and slides the ball right to Urena, who is clear in the area! But he smashes his shot straight at Cillessen! What a fine save! But what a chance to seal perhaps the biggest shock in World Cup history!
ET 28 min: Robben cuts inside from the right! Robben shoots! Robben doesn't score! Corner, which is hacked clear by Costa Rica! This is bedlam!
ET 29 min: Bedlam, you say? More pressure on Costa Rica, and Sneijder has the ball just outside the area, to the left of the D. He drops a shoulder and curls a stunning shot towards the top right! The ball beats Navas - finally! - but clatters off the crossbar! Robben tries to pick up the rebound, but can't get anything away! WOW. This was utter rubbish for 80 minutes, but it's been wonderful since!
ET 30 min: Robben has another desperate run down the right. He cuts inside. Lays off to Kuyt, whose shot is blocked. That should be it!
ET 30 min +1: There's enough time for Cillessen to be replaced by Krul! The Ajax keeper doesn't look particularly happy about it, but this is Louis van Gaal's final throw of the dice! And it's with the penalty shoot-out in mind!
EXTRA TIME, FULL TIME: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica
The luck's been with Costa Rica, but they deserve to have gotten here. Sheer stubborn brilliance from them. It'll be penalty kicks, starring Keylor Navas and Jasper Cillessen Tim Krul!
As the players prepare for the penalty drama, Robben gets right in Krul's face, giving him advice, and perhaps psyching up the newly introduced, cold goalkeeper. Think Jamie Carragher and Jerzy Dudek in Istanbul back in 2005. Krul trudges towards the goal, in very pensive frame of mind. Costa Rica meanwhile get into a huddle. It's penalties! It's on!!!
Holland 0-1 Costa Rica: Costa Rica to take the first kick. Borges steps up. Krul dances along the line. He goes the right way, but Borges kick - low to the bottom right - is good enough!
Holland 1-1 Costa Rica: Van Persie. Doesn't look confident. But he must be inside! Because he threads one into the bottom right. Navas goes the right way, but was never getting it.
Holland 1-1 Costa Rica: Ruiz goes for the bottom-right corner too, but it's weak and Krul gets a hand to it!
Holland 2-1 Costa Rica: Robben sends Navas the wrong way, and blooters a fine kick into the top right!
Holland 2-2 Costa Rica: Gonzalez walks very slowly towards the area. Krul gets right in his face, which isn't ideal but I suppose needs must. It doesn't work. Gonzalez blasts the ball into the top right.
Holland 3-2 Costa Rica: Sneijder tucks his away, into the left-hand side of the net, Navas sent the other way.
Holland 3-3 Costa Rica: Bolanos whips a stunner into the top left! He had looked nervous, too, but not a bit of it!
Holland 4-3 Costa Rica: Kuyt slaps his into the bottom left. Never missing. It's match point. Costa Rica have to score to keep their absurd, beautiful dreams alive.
Holland 4-3 Costa Rica: Krul tips Umana's weak effort towards the bottom right around the post - and HOLLAND HAVE MADE THE SEMI FINAL!!!
FULL TIME: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica (Holland win 4-3 on penalties)
Shame, shame, shame. What a shame for the brave and occasionally brilliant Costa Ricans. In the end, after all their goalkeeper Keylor Navas's heroics, it was Tim Krul who ended up the matchwinner. And in fairness, the best team won, Holland having rattled the woodwork on a couple of occasions. But the romantics will shed a tear for Costa Rica, who were a penalty shootout away from becoming the biggest outsiders to ever reach a World Cup semi final. Maybe next time? Well, probably not. But they'll have this one in the memory banks, to enjoy when the pain subsides. As for Holland, they move on to a semi-final with Argentina, who have had a very good evening, all told.