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Costa Rica makes history thanks to Navas
by Paul Kennedy, June 30th, 2014 2:16AM
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TAGS:  costa rica, world cup 2014

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[WORLD CUP: Three Stars] At least one Concacaf team will be the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. Reminiscent of Brad Friedel for the USA in 2002, the last time a Concacaf team made the final eight, Keylor Navas again came up huge for Costa Rica in its shootout win over Greece. In Sunday's other match, Mexico paid the price for sitting on its lead as the firepower of the Dutch was too much in a wild finish.

1. KEYLOR NAVAS. One of the common denominators of the two Costa Rican teams that reached the second round of the World Cup is their goalkeeping. Luis Gabelo Conejo was a rock on Bora Milutinovic's team in 1990 that beat Scotland and Sweden, and Navas has done one better, leading the Ticos to the quarterfinals of the World Cup with their shootout win over Greece.

Navas was the hero, making several spectacular saves to keep the 10-man Ticos even with Greece, 1-1, after regulation and overtime, and he stopped Theofanis Gekas' penalty kick to win the shootout. Conejo is a big admirer of Navas, who played at Spanish club Albacete, where Conejo had gone after starring for the Ticos in 1990.

"He has special abilities," says Conejo. "He's explosive, quick and good one-on-one. There are not many goalies in Europe who have those traits." Conejo's European career lasted all of four years. Navas just finished his fourth season in Spain and it only just beginning.


2. KLAAS JAN HUNTELAAR. Huntelaar came into the 2014 World Cup with 67 caps for the Netherlands but  he had not played until he was brought on for Robin van Persie with 15 minutes to play and the Dutch trailing Mexico, 1-0.

All he did was nod back a corner kick that Wesley Sneijder blasted inside the near post for the equalizer in the 88th minute and step up and take the penalty kick that won the game after Arjen Robben was taken down for a penalty kick.

Robben asked Huntelaar if he wanted to take the penalty kick, and the Schalke 04 striker says he almost changed his mind after taking the ball from Robben. After all, he had missed four of his previous five penalty kicks. Huntelaar says he thought of smashing his PK straight down the middle but chickened out. It was a good thing for the Dutch. He shot to his left gave Mexico goalie Guillermo Ochoa no chance.


3. ARJEN ROBBEN. Was it a penalty kick? Or not? The award of a penalty for Rafael Marquez's foul on Robben is the most controversial decision of the World Cup. One that Mexican fans will talk about for years to come. But say what you want about Robben, who has a reputation for being a serial diver, he kept on coming at the Mexican defense.

On another charge into the area late in the second half, the Dutchman blew past Marquez in the air and forced a save from Ochoa. On two other occasions, Robben almost drew a penalty kick -- he admits to diving on one of them -- but the third time was a charm.



1 comment
  1. Tim Gibson
    commented on: June 30, 2014 at 1:24 p.m.
    If only Rafa could've found a way to propely channel his emotions throughout his career, he coulda been a legend? Instead & sadly for a nation/team that had a great tournament, his World Cup career ends in disgrace.

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