By Ken Boehlke

Netherlands vs. Mexico (B1 vs. A2)


2 way line (90 minutes) – Netherlands -0.5 (+120) Mexico +0.5 (-140)
3 way line (90 minutes) – Netherlands (+120) Mexico (+230) Draw (+240)
Outright Winner – Netherlands (-200) Mexico (+175)
Total – Over 2.5 (+120) Under 2.5 (-140)

Side: The Dutch finished off their perfect Group B campaign by picking apart a feisty Chilean side. What was surprising in the match was Holland’s ability to play without the ball yet still look threatening for the entire 90 minutes. It was a side of the Netherlands that had yet to be seen and by most accounts was not in the toolbox. Now, moving forward, they must been viewed as a legitimate contender to reach at least the semifinal if not win the World Cup. Against Mexico they will head back to the offensive strategy that worked perfectly against both Spain and Australia. The return of Robin van Persie to the Dutch attack will free up Arjen Robben and allow the rest of the midfield to pick out passes forward or expose the wings. The Oranje have scored in just about every way possible so it will be difficult for Mexico to prepare for what is now a truly versatile side. The Netherlands will return to the high defensive line that worked so well early in the group stage and force Mexico to play with their backs against the wall all afternoon. El Tri have not shown much promise in the counter so the Dutch defenders should be able to join in on the attack. The Netherlands have shown no problems putting the ball in the back of the net, but they’ll face a defense playing at a much higher level than that of which they went against in the group stage. The chances will come, but the same could have been said for Brazil against Mexico. Scoring on Guillermo Ochoa has turned into quite the feat.

El Tri have been incredible defensively thus far in the tournament. It’s almost unbelievable because Mexico struggled so mightily all the way through qualifying and now the troubles seem to have dissipated and they are playing some of the best soccer of tournament. The one problem is that they still look rather pedestrian going forward. A single goal against a poor Cameroon side, no goals against Brazil, and then three quick ones against Croatian side that that almost appeared to be in shock. El Tri will likely be faced with an opponent that is going to play a similar style to that in which they saw against the hosts, Brazil. Mexico earned a much needed point in that match but they were completely outplayed and it took one of the best goalkeeping performances in World Cup history to maintain the level score. The flurry of goals that sent Mexico came through were a direct result of Crotia’s desperate approach to the second half of the final group stage match. Mexico must find a way to generate offense off the counter attack otherwise they will be buried by a Dutch team that comes in waves. Miguel Herrera has pulled every string perfectly thus far, but he has to make one more huge one if Mexico expect to get by the powerful Oranje. If Mexico start Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez it may expose the Mexican defense a little more than Herrera pleases, however, if Chicharito is relegated to the “super-sub” role Herrera usually prefers him in, they may not have enough firepower to get the ball past the high line of the Holland defense. Herrera has had a dream tournament as a manager thus far, but if he makes the wrong decision here, it will all be forgotten instantly. Pick: 90 minute bet – Netherlands (+120)

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Total: The total of this match will rely on the decision Miguel Herrera makes on his tactical strategy. He has the option to attempt a defensive shell and try to keep the Netherlands out of the net like they did against Brazil, or he can try a more aggressive side and try to expose a Dutch defense that has been broken down multiple times during the tournament. While the match is tied the Dutch are going to play forward and they are going to have a back four whose heels will be on the positive side of the midfield line more often than not. The match will open up significantly the moment the first goal is scored, it’s just a question of when it will come. Memo Ochoa has been so good thus far, but his luck is likely to run out at some point. If he’s not near perfect, this match could be a goal scoring fest as the Dutch will see tons of space once the Mexicans choose to commit men forward. Pick: Over 2.5 goals (+125)

Costa Rica vs. Greece (D1 vs. C2)


2 way line (90 minutes) – Costa Rica PK (-145) Greece PK (+125)
3 way line (90 minutes) – Costa Rica (+140) Greece (+220) Draw (+210)
Outright Winner – Costa Rica (-130) Greece (+110)
Total – Over 2 (+110) Under 2 (-130)

Side: The Ticos earned seven points and an improbable Group D title. Now it’s time for Costa Rica to reap the rewards of finishing atop a group that consisted of three former champions. That reward is an opportunity to play a knockout stage game against Greece rather than Colombia. The Ticos are the perfect match for a game against the defense-first Greece. Costa Rica technically plays five defenders, but as the game unfolds they usually wind up with a back three and two wing backs that join in on the attack. Greece will look to counter down the flanks against Costa Rica but the Ticos should be able to recover because their outside players are natural defenders rather than outside midfielders. Costa Rica have gotten stupendous efforts from Joel Campbell and captain Brian Ruiz, and Ruiz has made statements to the media that his side is determined to get forward and pressure the Greeks as often as possible. The other advantage Costa Rica will have is in their ability to pressure midfielders and cause turnovers in the neutral third. The last team that used a pressure style defense was Colombia, who defeated Greece handily 3-0. The Costa Rican mindset will force Greece to play long high balls over the top of the Tico defense and it should wind up meaning much more possession for Costa Rica. The more time Costa Rica have the ball the more likely they are to find that perfect piece of combination play that will break down the normally excellent Greek defense. This is a rare opportunity for a CONCACAF nation to be favored in a knockout stage match, Costa Rica appear ready to prove the odds right.

Greece will enter the Round of 16 as the team that played the worst in the group stage yet still advanced on in the tournament. They were outclassed by Colombia, couldn’t ever play forward against Japan (partially because of a red card), and drew a late penalty kick to eventually knock off the Ivory Coast and send them through. They’ve shown little ability to get forward into the attack, and the defense has not been nearly as perfect as the record indicates. In this match with Costa Rica the Greeks will once again bunker down in their own end and hope Georgios Samaras can singlehandedly lead a break that produces a goal. Defensively they will attempt to stay organized but will likely struggle with the movement of Campbell. Group stage matches play into the Greek style because draws are often good enough, but when it comes to knockout matches, it becomes necessary to score a goal in order to advance. The only Greek goals thus far in the tournament have come at the hands of an Ivorian defense that became panicky as they sniffed their first ever place in the knockout round. Yet in the match with the Ivory Coast, it still took a miracle penalty kick to send the Greeks through. They’ll have a hard time with the high pressure defending Costa Rica will throw at them and they will have to figure out a way to stay compact at the back when the Ticos come at them with eight and nine players. Pick: 3 way 90 minute bet – Costa Rica (+140)

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Total: Greece will enter the match expecting that the only way they advance to the quarterfinals will be on the shoulders of a 1-0 victory. Therefore, a normally defensive side will become even more defensive-minded if they score first. Meanwhile, Costa Rica has vowed to send men forward and go after the Greek defense. The Ticos have shown the ability to score, but they simply do not have the world class strikers that it takes to break down Greece regularly. Costa Rica should be able to find the net at some point in the match, but the moment they do, they could switch shape and let the feeble Greece attack try their hand against a five man defensive line. Costa Rica could catch Greece on the counter, but the Greeks rarely ever lose their shape even when they are pressed with the task of chasing a match. The matchup plays out almost as perfectly as it could have for Costa Rica, but for a country that has never had a knockout stage lead, they will probably be perfectly content with a 1-0 victory themselves. Pick: Under 2 goals (-130)

Listen to Over and Under with Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier on CBS Sports Radio 1140 every Sunday morning from 8 to 10. Follow the show on Twitter @OAU1140 and on Facebook.

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