FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — The Dutch were worried about the oppressive heat at Arena Castelao, and they left it with the stifling hot conditions to thank for a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.
An inspired tactical change during the second of two official stoppages led to a late goal from Netherlands forward Wesley Sneijder and an injury-time penalty from Klaas Jan Huntelaar in a dramatic 2-1 victory over Mexico on Sunday.
“I moved to ‘Plan B’ at the cooling break,” said Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, soon to be the manager at Manchester United. “That is a good way to take advantage of those breaks.”
Despite scoring 10 goals in three group matches, the Dutch again started the match with a defensive 5-3-2 system. Van Gaal made the switch to a more attacking 4-3-3 formation in the second half and tweaked it further when referee Pedro Proenca stopped the match in the 76th minute to allow players to rehydrate.
That helped turn the match around and extend Mexico’s second-round curse to six straight World Cups.
“Unbelievable,” said Arjen Robben, the Netherlands forward that earned the late penalty. “Five minutes from full time, we were out.”
Instead of the Dutch players, it was the Mexicans who wilted in the heat as they conceded twice as many goals in the final minutes of the match as they had in the entire group stage.
Costa Rica 1, Greece 1
RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — With his team down to 10 men for nearly an hour, Keylor Navas made sure Costa Rica’s last line of defense held firm.
The goalkeeper came through with a string of stops in regulation and extra time and then made the only save in a penalty shootout to send Costa Rica through to the World Cup quarterfinals on Sunday with a win over Greece.
After Navas dived to his right to push out the effort by Theofanis Gekas, Costa Rica defender Michael Umana scored the decisive spot kick for a 5-3 win in the shootout, sending the team sprinting down the pitch to embrace its goalkeeper. The game had finished 1-1 following extra time, after Greece equalized in second-half injury time.