World Cup Daily: July 6
A daily update on the action in Brazil
Nick Barbaro, 1:18pm, Sun. Jul. 6, 2014
Argentina and Netherlands won on Saturday to complete the star-studded field for the semifinals. Plucky Costa Rica came up short in a dramatic PK shootout, bringing down the curtain on a surprisingly successful campaign for CONCACAF, our home confederation.
Saturday ResultsArgentina 1, Belgium 0; Netherlands 0, Costa Rica 0 (4-3 PKs)
Costa Rica goalie Keylor Navas was astounding in goal, completing a trifecta of amazing individual performances by CONCACAF goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa against Brazil; Tim Howard against Belgium, and now Navas against Holland, have been the three best games anyone's had in the tournament.
On the other hand, we can ponder the truism that it's not really a good sign for your team when your goalie is the best player on the field. As well as our CONCACAF teams did in this World Cup – Mexico back in form after a shaky year, the USA and Costa Rica advancing out of the toughest groups and eliminating England, Italy, and Portugal along the way – there still seems to be a significant talent gap with the top teams. The U.S. was soundly outshot in every one of their games, and pretty thoroughly dominated in their last two against Germany and Belgium. Costa Rica was clearly outclassed against Netherlands; despite Navas' heroics, it really would've been a travesty had Costa Rica advanced on penalty kicks. (On the other hand, even in penalty kicks, usually such a random crap shoot, Holland was clearly the better team. Costa Rica looked hopeful, but scared; Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Kuyt, each stepped up to their shots as if they knew they were going to bury them, and they did. Hell, the Dutch even had the luxury of using their last substitution to bring in a PK specialist goalie!)
Earlier in the day, Argentina pretty much had their way Belgium, a very talented squad that couldn't ever create any momentum. Their biggest worry (apart from having to face a Dutch team on a roll) is an injury that forced Angel Di Maria out of the game in the first half. As brilliant as Lionel Messi continues to be, he needs others to play to and off of, and Di Maria has been that guy most of the time.
Tuesday, July 8
Wednesday, July 9