Dutch to prove their class
Our Andy Schooler previews Saturday's World Cup quarter-finals and expects the Netherlands to make smooth progress.
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The Dutch face Costa Rica in the late game and are taken to progress with a 'win to nil'.
The early game sees Argentina take on Belgium and while a shock could be on the cards, it is the goal markets into which our man is heading in search of profit.
Check out the individual match verdicts below.
- 2pts Netherlands to beat Costa Rica to nil at 11/8 (totesport) - there's a gulf in class here and the Dutch are worth backing in this market
- 1pt under 1.5 goals in Argentina v Belgium at 2/1 (William Hill) - both sides have disappointed in attack and could well be tired after extra-time workouts in last 16
Argentina v Belgium, quarter-finals, Brasilia, 1700 BST
Given the talent these sides have at their disposal, it's fair to say both have disappointed at the tournament so far.
Yet the fact is both have made it to the quarter-finals and one will be in the last four come Saturday evening.
Certainly more had been expected of Argentina, who many observers felt had the best attack in the tournament before the action got under way.
After an injury-hit campaign, Sergio Aguero's struggles, both with form and fitness, were predictable; Gonzalo Higuain's slump not so. Angel Di Maria has also failed to live up to the standards set at Real Madrid and there was a sense of injustice that after a poor game he emerged as the hero in the previous round against the Swiss.
That match saw Argentina scrape through 1-0 with a late goal in extra time but the good news for their tired legs is that Belgium had to work just as hard in fending off the USA in a contest they won 2-1 after 120 minutes of football.
The Belgians certainly created more in their last-16 clash than the Argentines did but although Tim Howard was lauded for a string of saves, most were fairly routine and the Belgian finishing was not of the highest standard.
From what I've seen so far, this seems unlikely to be a goal fest and that's where I'm looking to go in terms of a bet.
Sadly the bookies agree and offer under 2.5 goals at just 4/6. However, I can see some mileage in going under 1.5 which is offered at 2/1.
Both teams' last-16 matches ended goalless after 90 minutes - that's what we're looking at in terms of the bet - while two of Belgium's group games and one of Argentina's came in under the 1.5 mark.
With this game kicking off in the heat of the day, albeit at around a manageable 23C, it could well be another case of being patient in terms of trying to work an opening.
The Argentines have looked over-reliant on Lionel Messi who has come to their rescue on several occasions. Of course, if he has a good day then he could down the bet single-handedly but Belgium will be well aware of him and do their utmost to stifle him.
Both the Swiss and Iran did a pretty good job at keeping him away from the real danger areas and Belgium can do the same.
For those disagreeing and thinking there will be goals, it will be worth noting that Argentina left-back Marcos Rojo is suspended for the clash which means a regular centre-back will likely have to fill in down that flank.
That could bring Dries Mertens into the first scorer equation or Kevin Mirallas if Marc Wilmots feels the Everton man did not enough to warrant a start following his substitute appearance against the USA.
In the outright market, I wouldn't rule out an upset with Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria having all got at Argentina at times in the group stages. The Swiss could easily have snatched a late equaliser against them too.
I won't be playing in that market but were I to do so I'd prefer to be backing Belgium at a big price than Argentina around the evens mark.
Verdict: Argentina 0 Belgium 0 (AS)
Since the start of the 2010 World Cup, Argentina have won eight of their nine games in the competition, their only defeat coming in the quarter finals of the 2010 edition against Germany (0-4).
Argentina have won six of their last 19 World Cup games against European sides at the World Cup.
Argentina have been victorious (via penalties or winning AET) in six of their seven World Cup games that have gone to extra-time.
Argentina and Belgium are two of four teams to have won all their games at the 2014 World Cup (extra-time included), with Colombia and the Netherlands. All four of Argentina and Belgium's wins have been by a one-goal difference.
Belgium's six goals in this World Cup have all been scored from the 70th minute onwards. Also, four of their six goals have been scored by substitutes.
Argentina have averaged 64.3% of possession in this World Cup, the highest ratio of the tournament.
Lionel Messi has scored (4) and assisted (1) five of Argentina's seven goals at this World Cup. Three of his four goals have been scored from outside the box.
Netherlands v Costa Rica, quarter-finals, Salvador, 2100 BST
Having played their last-16 clash in the toughest conditions of the tournament, the Dutch will be drained to at least some extent for this quarter-final.
However, two late goals saw them beat the Mexicans in Fortaleza and good news followed in the sense that Costa Rica went the distance with Greece - with 10 men for a long period - before progressing on penalties.
Conceding an injury-time equaliser in normal time of that clash has effectively deprived them of an advantage here and now I'd expect the Dutch to prove the gulf in class.
Costa Rica, who have Oscar Durate suspended after his red card against the Greeks, have won many friends for their run to the last eight but although they may have topped a group containing Italy, England and Uruguay, the Netherlands have already proven they are a better side than any of those.
They have two world-class match-winners in Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie and, unlike many supposedly top-quality players, both have already delivered at this tournament.
The loss of Nigel de Jong to injury is certainly a blow but with coach Louis van Gaal having already shown he is happy to tweak the team's formation whenever necessary, the new Manchester United boss is well placed to come up with an alternative arrangement.
Either way, the Netherlands look worthy favourites.
While the Central Americans will doubtless look to reap dividends from the absence of De Jong, they struggled to break down the well-organised Greek defence last time out when chances were at a premium. As well as they've done, they lack serious weapons going forward and I'd expect something similar to unfold here.
A win to nil for the Dutch can be backed at 11/8 which seems fair enough to me.
Verdict: Netherlands 2 Costa Rica 0
Netherlands have won 10 of their last 11 World Cup matches, with the only blip in this run being their 2010 final defeat against Spain.
The Netherlands have now turned their last four World Cup games in which they fell behind in regular time (90 mins, not inc. ET) into a victories.
Seven different players have scored for the Netherlands at this World Cup.
Costa Rica have beaten just one European side in their last seven encounters with teams from that continent, though this did come against Italy earlier in the World Cup (D3 L3).
Los Ticos have scored in all but one of their nine World Cup matches against teams from Europe, failing to score against England earlier in the tournament.
Wesley Sneijder has scored five goals in his last five World Cup knockout matches for the Netherlands.
The Netherlands have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 11 World Cup knockout games, last keeping a shutout against Ireland in 1994.
The Netherlands are unbeaten in their last 11 meetings with teams representing CONCACAF (W10 D1) and have scored at least twice in 10 of those games.