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World Cup 2014

World Cup: How do Netherlands and Costa Rica’s key players compare statistically?

As we enter the latter stages of the World Cup and into what will turn out to be some of the most historic games of the tournament, we will statistically analyse some of the key players of each team based on the systems employed & opposition using Squawka‘s excellent comparison matrix.


The heart of the defence

Both sides set up in a similar 3 man central defence and at the heart of their respective teams is Ron Vlaar and Giancarlo Gonzalez. Vlaar is of course better known in the European circuit and has been lauded for his performances in an over-achieving Dutch side. Solid at the back, Vlaar was strikingly impressive in Oranje’s rout of defending Champions Spain and will once again look to shut out a lively Costa Rica team. On the other side, we have Giancarlo Gonzalez who has been Costa Rica’s defensive mainstay. The man who plies his trade for Columbus Crew in the MLS has impressed fans with his tackling and leadership.

NEDCRC Defence

Ron Vlaar vs Giancarlo Gonzalez | via Squawka’s comparison matrix

Both the defenders certainly share a liking for tackling as can be seen. There’s nothing to separate the 2 as both average a healthy 7 tackles/game so far. In the air, Vlaar has a distinct advantage as the big Dutchman has won a mammoth 90% of his aerial duels compared to a more modest 69.23% for his Costa Rican counterpart. There’s little to choose between them in terms of fouls committed, figures that are quite low if you consider the aforementioned tackles statistic. Gonzalez has an edge in terms of interceptions. In terms of passing, there’s a clear winner in the form of the Dutchman who boasts of a 90% pass completion as opposed to 79% for Gonzalez, a fact made more impressive when you consider that the average pass length of the former is longer than that of the latter.

All about the Wing-Backs

With both sides relying on a three man central defence, the deployment of wing-backs is a central component of the systems. Having been dealt the blow of losing the excellent Kevin Strootman before the World Cup, Van Gaal’s problem has been further compounded by De Jong’s injury. This has prompted a re-jig of personnel and somewhat incredibly it’s Dirk Kuyt who finds himself at wing-back. On the other hand, Costa Rica’s wing-backs are arguably their key players. With Kuyt reportedly starting on the right, we’ve compared him to Rosenborg’s Cristian Gamboa.

NEDCRC Full Backs Image

Kuyt has of course featured in only 2 games thus far but a statistical analysis shows the main difference between the two. Gamboa easily outdoes Kuyt in terms of the number of tackles, as you’d expect given the fact that Gamboa is the more natural defender of the two players. This also leads to an increased probability of fouls committed for the Costa Rica man and sure enough he does succumb to Kuyt in this regard. Kuyt however makes use of his experience and ability to read the game and is the clear winner in the interceptions field. If Gamboa was expected to win the defensive battle, then there was always going to be one winner in the attacking aspect. Kuyt who is only moonlighting in the wing-back role is definitely the more attacking of the duo in terms of chances created and take-ons ( Gamboa is yet to open in his account in the latter). In terms of passing too, Kuyt has more than double the average number of forward passes.

The attacking ammunition

Leading the line for the respective sides are Robin van Persie and Joel Campbell, two men having strong ties to the Gunners. Van Persie has of course moved on to newer pastures and will be looking to captain his national side to glory. Van Persie is at his peak and is most definitely the main man under the enigmatic Louis van Gaal. At the other end of the spectrum is Campbell who will be looking to make an impact in North London after impressing in successful loan spells and indeed in this World Cup. Costa Rica has already pulled off some major upsets and they’ll be looking to their main man again to stun the Dutch defence.


As you’d expect the Dutchman has more impressive stats  in terms of end product given that he’s a more complete player as opposed to Campbell who still is developing as a footballer. Robin van Persie has scored 3 goals in the tournament eclipsing Campbell’s solitary strike. The number of shots taken is also indicative of their roles in the side with Van Persie taking a total of 9 shots (6 inside and 3 outside the box) and Campbell with a total of 5 (2 from inside and 3 outside the box). If the output from the Dutchman is better, then the young Costa Rican has an edge in terms of the build-up play. Campbell boasts of superior chances created and pass completion percentage. Also notable is the number of take-ons totaling 12 in between them with 7 and 5 to the Costa Rican and the Dutchman respectively.

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