Costa Rica

Play by play

FT: Holland 1 (5) – 1 (3) Costa Rica. So Holland wins. It’s anti-climactic. Krul was prancing around the box and intentionally intimidating each Tico, but the referee said nothing. It’s disgusting. But Holland were favored to go on and they’ll now face a Di Maria-less Argentina in the semifinals. They began this tournament with an earth-shattering win over Spain, but looked pedestrian (for Holland) since then. That said, they’ve avoided the injury plague and will be prepared to give Lionel Messi a beating. #Pray4Leo. For Los Ticos, let’s just join in a slow clap and praise their finest World Cup ever. I don’t know if they have the depth or talent to do this again in 2018–actually, I really doubt it–but they should go home and celebrate this for a good long while. They punched well above their weight and showed real heart. I like that. So should you. That’s it. 60 matches down. 4 to go. Get some sleep, friends.


KUYT SCORES!!! 4-3 now after 4. Costa Rica has to make it.

Christian Bolaños is up…Krul tries to intimidate him…SCORES! Beauty! 3-3.

Sneijder, the crossbar rattler, is next…SCORES! Holland 3-2 after 3.

Gonzalez is next for Los Ticos…SCORES! 2-2.

Robben SCORES!!! 2-1 Holland after 2.

Ruiz is up. SAVED!!! I can hear the “KRUL!” chants now. 1-1.

RVP steps up…BURIES IT!!! Navas guessed right, but too good. 1-1 after 1.

BORGES SCORES!!! Krul guesses correctly, but it was low and hard. CRC 1-0.

FT: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica. My heart can’t take this. But it wants to try. Hang on, folks.

Last minute substitution for Holland. WOW. YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!!! Krul comes on for Cillessen. Van Gaal has no confidence in his starting goalkeeper.


Cillessen with a HUGE SAVE!!! Ureña is causing all sorts of problems and Costa Rica nearly found the goal. This is crazy.

Los Ticos are finding energy. It’s amazing. They’ve been sitting back for what feels like hours and now they’re creating. THEY’RE CREATING!!!

Yellow for Huntelaar. Navas times a cross perfectly and Huntelaar grabs the magical goalkeepers face. Wow.

Acosta takes down Robben. The two grab their heads and roll. Yellow for Acosta. That’s the right call.

15 minutes until penalties. Costa Rica would be the first team since Spain in 2002 to go to a shootout in consecutive rounds. Huntelaar comes on for Martins Indi. That serves two purposes: (1) Huntelaar is excellent from the spot and (2) Martins Indi is a red card liability. WE’RE BACK!!!

It’s not been a good 24 hours for refs. This ref has tolerated a lot tonight. He should’ve sent off Diaz and Martins Indi deserved his second yellow for unnecessarily blowing up Ruiz (who didn’t even have the ball). He’s also missed two penalties for Los Ticos. Still, don’t we just LOVE THE HUMAN ELEMENT OF SOCCER?

Meanwhile, the fans don’t seem fatigued.

PENAL……NOT…TY. Vlaar’s legs tangle with Ureña in the box and he goes down. Nothing given, but that’s a penalty.

Navas doesn’t look 100%, but he’s staying on. Costa Rica uses its last sub, taking off Tejeda and sending on Cubero’s fresh legs.

NAVAS IS DOWN. Heroics come with a cost…or so I’ve heard. 

This doesn’t look good for Costa Rica. Holland is pressing and they’re sitting back. Corner-kick to Holland and Navas saves Vlaar’s header. #TheLegendBuilds


FT: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica. We’re not done with these teams yet. We’ve got another 30 minutes to cherish them, or hate them, or both. Based on how the last five minutes unfolded, I don’t know what to expect in extra time.

MADNESS!!! TECHNOLOGIES!!! LUCK!!! WONDOLOWSKI!!! TEJEDA!!! A ball is delivered low through the six-yard box and somehow goes through two Dutch players, two defenders, and finds RVP at the back post, who has just Boris Yeltsin Tejeda to beat. His shot deflects off Tejeda’s head, off the post and back out. HOLY MOLEY! Breathe, Ticos. Breathe.

JUNIOR DIAZ IS A LUCKY MAN. That was no dive from Robben. He got a nasty boot from Diaz, who should’ve gotten yellow. Free-kick just outside the box.

A cross from the increasingly dangerous Wes Sneijder finds RVP, who’s beaten the defender. And he somehow misses entirely. And then flops. And the world is confused.

Stoppage time is approaching and Los Ticos have kept Holland scoreless. Their chances have dwindled in the last several minutes, but they’re hardly exhausted.

SNEIJDER HITS THE POST!!! Off the Robben flop, Wes Sneijder gets tricky. Like Tim and Memo before him, Keylor has made friends with the woodwork. That’s a good thing. Los Ticos dodge a bullet.

I hate even using this graphic for Giancarlo Gonzalez. He put an arm near Robben just outside the box and the Diving Dutchman did his patented flop.

AND………..Gamboa is coming off. Maybe TV spectators, including former players, ARE doctors. I don’t know. This drama is too much.

It turns out TV spectators, even former players, aren’t doctors. This is Gamboa just minutes later. He looks okay…maybe a little too okay.

Gamboa lands awkwardly and needs help off. A former player offers his take:

Earlier today, we were perplexed by Eden Hazard’s withdrawal with 20 minutes to go. Tonight, we’ve got Joel Campbell coming off for Marco Ureña with nearly 30 minutes left. Both players played 120 minutes in the prior game, so it probably stems from accumulated fatigue. It’s like going on pub crawls two nights in a row and then going to bed at 9pm on the third night. There’s no shame in it, but a lot of people won’t understand.

Speak of the devil. Martins Indi gets handsy with Ruiz and is booked for holding the Costa Rican captain. That was overdue.

Los Ticos are getting more opportunities. They win another free-kick in the attacking half. Christian Bolaños tries his luck from 35+ yards and shoots high and wide. Very ambitious. I’m talking Uncle Rico trying to throw a football over the mountain ambitious.

Counterattack from Costa Rica. Junior Diaz prances up the left wing and cuts it back for Joel Campbell, but he’s barged over by Martins Indi. The ref has no interest in giving a penalty.

Corner-kick for Holland. It’s delivered to the back post. Blind’s header deflects off Gonzalez. There are shouts for handball, but nothing serious. I wish protestors would go all the way or not at all. It’s a “dropping of gloves” moment, for all you hockey fans.

Umana is booked for a challenge on Robben. He protests, but the alternative was Junior Diaz, who already has a yellow. These guys aren’t rocket scientists.

Holland can’t find that finishing touch, which makes me wonder what the emergency substitution might look like.


So what can we expect from the second half? Well, if it’s about formation, Los Ticos might be in trouble.

And then there’s Memo Ochoa whose performance against Holland was 7.5-arms good. Yes, Mexico lost to Holland by the same score that the USA lost to Belgium, but he had to make some very difficult saves.

Then there’s Tim Howard, who single-handedly (okay, he used all limbs) kept the USA in the match against Belgium and was easily their best player on the pitch. When a goalkeeper puts in that type of performance it’s 7-arms good. And when you’re that good, it’s hard to turn off. Today, Tim shut down an over-eager fan at the airport. The result was embarrassing for the fan.

So let’s talk about the upper echelons of great goalkeeping. Keylor Navas has been fantastic. However, he has NOT been 8-arms good. I would go with 5.

HT: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica. It was a half of two halves. The excruciatingly dull opening half-half. And the more lively finish. Once again, we’re talking about a CONCACAF goalkeeper. We’ve petitioned the White House to rename Reagan National Airport after Tim Howard. We’ve submitted Memo Ochoa to the Vatican for possible sainthood. And now we’ve got Keylor Navas keeping the Dutch in check. He’ll have to continue his heroics to reach Howard and Ochoa’s heights, but he’s on the rise. Let’s say he’s at “steak dinner” level and ascending toward having a midsize public library dedicated to him.

REWIND: Navas goes Ochoa on Sneijder.

KEYLOR NAVAS SAVES AGAIN!!! Robben steps over the ball and Sneijder strikes the free-kick hard and to Navas’ right. He started moving left, but did very well to paw it away.

Junior Diaz is the first player booked. Robben makes a meal of a challenge and…voila!

Holland is committing foul after foul in the attacking half. So far, the ref has forgotten he’s been giving a “card pack” containing a yellow and red card.

REWIND: This says it all.

Holland doesn’t care about controversy. They tear down the left wing and RVP fires another shot that Keylor Navas kicks away. Dare I say, he’s looking Ochoa-ish?

Free-kick for Costa Rica. It’s swung into the box, but just over the head of Celso Borges. The replay shows he was clearly being pulled down. That’s a penalty 10 days a week.

Good coaches change strategy when foiled. Great coaches write it down to create a record of these changes.

REWIND: Navas stops RVP.

KEYLOR NAVAS SAVES!!! Dirk Kuyt crosses to Depay at the top of the box, who lays it off to RVP, but the Ticos GK is up to the task. Sneijder has a follow-up attempt, but it’s weak and straight at Navas.


Interestingly, Neymar is not forgotten (he wouldn’t be passing it around at the back, would he?). No one’s singing about Di Maria, though. Probably in the second half.

Holland is back to passing it around at the back. The fans are horrified. The scenes in San Jose, Costa Rica. The person in front next to the large rooster hat may not make it through 90 minutes.

Holland seems content to wait and wait and wait…and then push forward. So far, it’s nothing Los Ticos can’t handle. But it also slows play, which doesn’t bode well for that free-flowing Pura Vida Futbol™ we’d hoped for.

A lot of passing at the back for both sides in the opening minutes. De Vrij is whistled for a foul. Costa Rica wastes the long free-kick.

This guy is not a frontrunner for MOTM honors, but he’d be welcome at my dinner table anytime.


Tonight’s referee is Uzbek whistle-meister Ravshan Irmatov. According to FIFA, he likes football, swimming, and tennis. He might be the only referee who doesn’t freely admit to reading. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

For Costa Rica, let’s turn up the beat with Young Lionel Flame’s “No Entregando.” I love the line, “If I could dive like Arjen dives, I wouldn’t be workin’ 9-to-5.” I think I heard that in there.

Your Dutch replacement anthem is Stil in Mij, by Van Dik Hout, which you might want to skip altogether. At a minimum, it will make you hate Arjen Robben just a little more…and I’m not sure why.

Holland wasn’t anyone’s favorite coming into the tournament, except for really high Dutch people, but with stars and contenders dropping like flies, they’re perfectly capable of winning it now. It might be the least talented Dutch World Cup squad in decades, but they’re physical, creative, and (as we saw against Mexico) they don’t go away. On the other side, Costa Rica has nothing to lose. They weren’t expected to survive Group D. They were nearly put away against Greece. And so let’s hope Los Ticos come out with that joie de vivre we saw early in the tournament. Here are today’s lineups:

Here’s each team in 60 seconds. You might know some of it already, but it never hurts to look a little smarter in front of your friends, right?

Similarly, Costa Rica arrives in Salvador feeling lucky. In the group stage, Los Ticos won fans in droves with Pura Vida Football®–upstaging Uruguay and Italy and making England feel incredibly English. In the Round of 16, however, they struggled to impose their will against the ever-dull, defensive Greeks. Bryan Ruiz’s 52nd-minute strike put Los Ticos ahad, but thirteen minutes later Óscar Duarte was sent off after a dumb challenge drew a second yellow card, leaving way too much time for Greece to find an equalizer. They waited until stoppage time–after Costa Rica had fended off attack after attack–forcing extra time and then penalties. In the shootout, the players found their scoring form, converting the first seven shots, until Navas saved on Gekas. Umana finished them off with the next kick. DRAMA!!! What does the next segment of the Costa Rica Rollercoaster have in store? If they’re to compete with a much more experienced, talented Holland squad, they’ll have to dig deep…

I know what you’re thinking. “This was supposed to be an All-CONCACAF quarterfinal celebration between Mexico and Costa Rica.” A brilliant strike from Gio Dos Santos and saintly performance from Memo Ochoa had Mexico five minutes from victory. And then Huntelaar found an open Sneijder to thunder in an equalizer. And then Arjen Robben did Arjen Robben things–creating and exploiting, leading Rafa Marquez to make a clumsy challenge, which Robben obliged with a trademark dive. Huntelaar converted the penalty and Mexico’s World Cup crumbled into dust. There were predictable cries of “CONSPIRACY!!!” But neutrals–and I fall into that category–could easily point to the first half penalty that Holland had been denied. Still, Arjen’s Robbentastic tendencies can almost drive a neutral to root for unjust results. For now, Van Gaal’s final season for the Oranje continues…