As Netherlands and Costa Rica advanced to the quarter-finals in equally dramatic fashion, fans of Manchester United, Arsenal and Aston Villa will have been interested observers
Manchester United supporters had a particular interest in Netherlands' win over Mexico, as new manager Louis van Gaal took charge of the Oranje while strikers Robin van Persie and Chicharito went head-to-head.
There was also another run-out in the day's late game for Arsenal's Joel Campbell as Costa Rica saw off Greece on penalties, and Goal ran the rule over all the Premier League representatives in action...
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Van Persie missed the victory over Chile which cemented top spot in Group B through suspension but was restored to the starting line-up here. The 29-year-old endured a frustrating afternoon, however, starved of possession and space, his threat easily negated by the experienced Rafael Marquez.
Still, it was an astonishing decision that saw Louis Van Gaal substitute his captain with just 14 minutes remaining and the Dutch staring elimination square in the face. The new Manchester United manager’s gamble was vindicated almost immediately with Van Persie’s replacement, Klaas Jan Huntelaar tucking away the decisive penalty.
If anyone was going to suffer in the unrelenting heat and humidity of Fortaleza it was going to be the hulking figure of Aston Villa centre-half Vlaar. In fairness to the former PSV skipper, he had marshalled a largely inexperienced Dutch defence to great effect in this tournament until he came up against the livewire Mexican attackers who exploited his lack of pace and mobility.
Without the reassuring presence of Nigel de Jong in front of him, Vlaar was regularly exposed, particularly in the opening period and was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he interrupted Hector Herrera’s run into the area with a comically high challenge. Vlaar was again at fault for Mexico’s opener when he was slow to come across and prevent Giovani dos Santos from shooting, although he was hardly alone in failing to anticipate that particular danger.
The Mexico striker was hoping he’d have the chance to impress his new Manchester United manager but was again reduced to the role of impact substitute. Unfortunately, Hernandez was given just 15 minutes to impress but was hardly seen as an attacking force and was hindered by a Mexican side which had resorted to all-out defence by the time he entered the fray.
Again given the task of leading the line on his own for the fairytale side of this World Cup, the young Arsenal forward will have impressed Arsene Wenger with a performance packed with patience and heart as well as no little pace and skill.
Barely given an inch by Konstantinos Manolas, it was plain for all to see that Campbell had been signalled out by Greece beforehand as a dangerman, though that in turn did allow captain Bryan Ruiz much more freedom, and along with Campbell he was able to stretch the European's defence for phases throughout the first half.
When Campbell did find space, his direct running caused plenty of problems, and only some tough challenges from Georgios Karagounis stopped him from creating anything really meaningful in the final third.
Once Costa Rica went down to ten men his influence began to diminish, and by the end of extra-time, with all his energy sapped, he could barely put one foot in front of the other. That didn't stop him stroking home his penalty in the shootout with aplomb as the Central Americans made history in reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.