Like many teams in this year’s World Cup, the Netherlands have made a big statement in one game only to deflate expectations in the very next one. It’s been a prominent feature of this World Cup; just as you think you’ve found your favorite to win the tournament, you watch the team’s very next match and all of a sudden you’re not so convinced anymore.
The Netherlands produced one of the most shocking results and performances of the tournament when they smashed Spain in their opening fixture 5-1. The win was so emphatic that the Netherlands emerged as many people’s pick to win the tournament for the first time in their country’s history. Especially after watching the remaining opening round of fixtures, where the Netherlands and Germany were clearly the most impressive, considering the opposition.
Then came the Netherlands’ game against Australia. It was a game where they were expected to comfortably win, but it became a real struggle against the Aussies. The Netherlands won the game 3-2 eventually, but it was a surprise that it was such a struggle — it reduced the expectations again.
The Netherlands then dealt with a confident Chile team to top the group, before then struggling once again against Mexico. Louis Van Gaal‘s men have shown their good and their bad so far, and it makes them slightly hard to predict before any game. Perhaps they get complacent when they feel a win can be obtained without playing at 100 percent.
That would certainly seem to describe how they approached the Australia game. How else do you explain struggling so much against a team that eventually finished with zero points, and only three goals, two of which were against the Dutch themselves? It was complacency on behalf of the Netherlands, and that can be dangerous, especially in one-off knockout games like the Dutch are faced with now.
Next up is Costa Rica, and they have been one of the biggest surprises of the tournament so far. The Netherlands cannot afford to take them lightly because the Costa Ricans have so far shown themselves to be clinical when it comes to taking advantage of supposed better teams.
They were never supposed to emerge from their group, but they did; and not only did they advance, but they finished top of the group too. It seems unlikely the Dutch would underestimate them, but given their performance against Australia — and Mexico to a lesser extent — you have to be wary of it.
On paper, the Dutch should win without too much drama, but ultimately it will come down to their mentality heading into the game. You shouldn’t take anyone lightly at a World Cup, but the Netherlands have already shown an ability to do so. And if they do so again, then don’t underestimate Costa Rica’s ability for another shocking result.