Netherlands 0-0 Costa Rica (Neth win 4-3 on pens)
05 July 2014
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil
World Cup Quarter Final
The Netherlands are the new Unofficial Football World Champions, and have booked their place in the World Cup semi finals after a remarkable penalty shoot-out win over Costa Rica in this epic quarter final. The Dutch had edged things over 90 minutes, but both sides had chances to win the game in a brilliantly entertaining period of extra-time. Just as the match was about to go to penalties, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal substituted goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, replacing him with Tim Krul, who had previously saved just two out of 24 penalties for his club Newcastle United. But the substitution turned out to be a master-stroke, as Krul saved two of the kicks, giving his side a 4-3 win.
The Netherlands had beaten Spain, Australia, Chile and Mexico to reach the quarter finals and set up this UFWC title match. They began the game without the injured Nigel De Jong, and with Paul Verhaeg dropped to the bench. Bruno Martins Indi and Memphis Depay came into the team. Van Gaal played Stefan De Vrij, Ron Vlaar and Martins Indi across the back, with Daley Blind and Dirk Kuyt as wing backs. Wesley Sneijder partnered Georginio in the middle, and Depay and Arjen Robben supported captain Robin van Persie up front.
Costa Rica had held the UFWC title since their opening match of the tournament, when they took it from Uruguay. Los Ticos then defeated Italy, drew with England, and beat Greece on penalties. Boss Jorge Luis Pinto made one change to his team, enforced due to the suspension of Oscar Duarte, who was sent off against Greece. He was replaced in central defence by Johnny Acosta, alongside Giancarlo Gonzalez and Michael Umana, as Costa Rica retained their three-at-the-back formation. Wing-backs Junior Diaz and Cristian Gamboa pushed forward, with Celso Borges and Yeltsin Tejeda in the middle, and Christian Bolanos and captain Bryan Ruiz supporting lone striker Joel Campbell. The impressive Keylor Navas once again kept goal.
Van Persie and Sneijder came closest to breaking the deadlock during the first 90 minutes, as the Dutch had the better of the chances. But Costa Rica, with Navas and Gonzalez in particularly brilliant form, kept their opponents out. Injury time at the end of the 90 minutes saw a remarkable double chance for van Persie as his free kick was beaten out by Navas, then came back in, only for the Man United striker’s follow-up shot to be deflected off the line and onto the crossbar by Tejeda.
Extra time again saw the Netherlands attack, but it was Costa Rica who had a big claim for a penalty turned down, when substitute Marcos Urena was clumsily knocked over by Vlaar. Costa Rica seemed to find a second wind in a remarkable final few minutes of frenetic end-to-end action. As the clock ticked down, Urena saw his point-blank shot blocked by Cillessen. Then Sneijeder hit a brilliant shot against the bar. Meanwhile, Tim Krul was warming up, and van Gaal brought him him on just before the referee’s whistle sounded and the match went to a penalty shoot-out.
Van Gaal’s risky strategy – one that will likely be talked about for years to come – paid-off, as Krul saved from Ruiz and Umana. Navas was unable to save any of the Netherlands’ penalties, and the Dutch won the shoot-out 4-3.
This was the Netherlands’ 50th UFWC title match win. The Dutch actually held the UFWC title right the way through the last World Cup tournament in 2010 up until the final, when they lost to Spain. They’re ranked 4th in the UFWC’s all-time rankings. The only side remaining in the World Cup with a higher UFWC ranking is Argentina.
And of course the Netherlands must now defend the UFWC title against Argentina in a World Cup semi final on Wednesday, 9 July at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo. Argentina, ranked 3rd, have won 57 UFWC title matches. They held the title very recently – between February and October 2013.
You can find out everything you need to know about the UFWC in our official handbook, Unofficial Football World Champions, which contains a complete history of the unofficial competition. The 2014 edition, updated for the World Cup, is out now.