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Duarte: Dunga's return is complicated

Brazil Jul 21, 2014
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 Posted by Iain Macintosh
Jun 29, 2014

Ten-man Ticos' tough triumph

The ESPN expert panel discuss how Costa Rica were able to withstand a late charge from Greece and advance in penalties.

Even Jorge Luis Pinto's mum would never have predicted that the only team from Group D to reach the quarterfinals would be Costa Rica. And yet there they are, preparing to do battle with the Netherlands while hundreds of millions of pounds worth of Uruguayan, Italian and English footballers sit on the sofa and watch it all on TV. And they've deserved it too.

Costa RicaCosta Rica
GreeceGreece
(5) 1
(3) 1
FT-Pens
Match 52
Game Details

Their fight for a place in the last eight began as a concerted effort to knock down an obdurate Greek defence, offered 14 minutes of relative comfort and then morphed into almost an hour of frantic, wild-eyed defending.

Costa Rica, reduced to 10 men midway through the second half, were exhausted at the end of 90 minutes and yet, lungs burning and legs pulsing, they still somehow survived a half-hour onslaught in extra-time.

There was something most disconcerting about watching Greece playing all out attacking football. It was like watching a cat walk on its hind legs. You were impressed, but at the same time uneasy, all too aware that this is not nature's way. And so it proved. At one point, they poured forward, outnumbering Costa Rica by five men to two, and still they couldn't score.

Celso Borges and Junior Diaz celebrate after Costa Rica's penalty win over Greece.

Having taken the game to penalties, Costa Rica then gave five perfect demonstrations of how to take them, and one fine example of how to save them. And all this from a team who were, according to some, only supposed to be there to provide a goal difference mini-league for the three former winners. It really hasn't turned out like that, has it?


And speaking of great stories, it was hard not to be impressed with the resolve of the Netherlands as they came back in the sweaty final moments to equalise and then traumatise Mexico. Just for once, it looked as though Mexico might qualify from a group and then actually stick around for a bit, but it was not to be. The curse continues.

NetherlandsNetherlands
MexicoMexico
2
1
FT
Match 51
Game Details

After more than an hour of looking as comfortable in the sweltering heat as an Englishman on a foreign holiday, the Dutch activated some kind of internal afterburner and began to pour forward at a frankly baffled Mexican back line.

Miguel Herrera's side took the lead through Giovani dos Santos and they must have looked at the reddened, clammy faces of their opponents and felt their hearts soar. The Europeans looked done. Dirk Kuyt looked like he might actually evaporate. But appearances can be deceiving.

First, Wesley Sneijder smashed home the equaliser and then, like so many teams were before them, and so many will be in the future, Mexico were well and truly Robbened.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored the Netherlands' late winner.

In fairness to everyone's favourite gravitationally challenged Dutchman, you could understand why Arjen Robben felt the need to go "Full Platoon" when he made contact with Rafa Marquez's dangling foot.

Robben was denied a penalty in the first half, time was getting on and, besides, Marquez should be smart enough not to hang his leg out like that, shouldn't he? Even so, if Robben is planning a summer holiday after the competition ends, he would do very well to avoid Mexico. And all the Mexicans. In fact, it's probably safest if he just stays at home and draws the curtains.


Still, it's all positive stuff for Manchester United fans, isn't it? Louis van Gaal's side have been behind in three of their four games so far and they've come back to win all of them, something which may bring back memories of a certain red-faced former denizen of Old Trafford.

- Honigstein: Unloved Huntelaar answers the call
- Jones: One epic night, minute by minute
- Born: Sneijder steps up for Netherlands
- Jolly: Tactics Board -- Dutch play long

Van Gaal, naturally, was keen to make sure everyone knew who was responsible for the late turnaround.

"We had a bit of luck with the cooling break, so that I could implement Plan B," he said afterward. "That saved us."

Well done, you! That sort of humility brings back even more memories.


The Netherlands' victory was made even more impressive when you consider the stupefying conditions in which the game was played. When the second half kicked off in Fortaleza, the temperature was 38.8 degrees Celsius. That's almost hot enough to boil an egg on Robben's head. It was so hot that hundreds of supporters were forced to abandon their seats and seek sanctuary in the shade. And those tickets weren't cheap enough to be discarded lightly.

Dutch fans sweltering in the Brazilian sun.

Meanwhile over in Qatar, it was even hotter, a sweltering 41 degrees. And it was 8 p.m. It was still 32 degrees at 10 p.m. If the 2022 World Cup goes ahead as planned, and remember that there has been no winter move yet, it's hard to see how it's going to be anything else other than a dehydrated disaster.

So, tell us again: What was it about the tiny gazillionaire desert state of Qatar, with no history nor future for the sport, that so appealed to FIFA's executive committee?

Iain Macintosh

Iain Macintosh is a U.K. football correspondent for The New Paper in Singapore, writer for ESPN and co-author of "Football Manager Stole My Life" from @backpagepress. You can follow him on Twitter @iainmacintosh.