Costa Rica’s Le Sele readies for its date with destiny Saturday

They’ve already made history, but Costa Rican players and coaches insist they’re motivated to continue their spectacular run in the World Cup. Despite making it out of the Group of Death with three former Cup champions, the Ticos may be facing their stiffest challenge when they take on Holland Saturday.

The Dutch frontline led by Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie will look for its opportunities against a Costa Rican defense that has remained nearly impenetrable throughout this tournament.

Much of that credit is due to star goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who has been cleared to play despite worries of a shoulder injury sustained against Greece, according to the Federación Costarricense de Fútbol.

A statement by the country’s soccer federation Thursday said that team doctor Vladimir Badilla put Navas through a series of tests and concluded that there is no significant damage to his shoulder.

Navas is a top candidate for the Golden Glove award, given to the tournament’s top goalkeeper. So far in four games, Navas has only conceded two goals – one on a penalty kick against Uruguay and the second against Greece when Costa Rica was down to just 10 men.

La Sele and the Netherlands play at 2 p.m. Saturday in Salvador, Brazil. The winner of their match will play the winner of the Argentina-Belgium game in the semifinals. Argentina and Belgium have the earlier 10 a.m. slot Saturday.

The quarterfinals begin today as European powers Germany and France clash and five-time champion Brazil takes on South American opponent Colombia.

France and Germany, two evenly matched teams, play in the first game in Rio de Janeiro. The French have beaten Germany in four of their past six matches and have looked like a confident team in this year’s World Cup.

Germany has not won a World Cup since East and West Germany were reunified in late 1990. West Germany captured its third World Cup that year. France won its only World Cup in 1998, narrowly losing to Italy in the finals in 2006.  In that game, French superstar Zinedine Zidane was ejected in extra time with the score tied, 1-1, after head-butting an opponent. Italy went on to win in a penalty shootout.

Brazil and Colombia meet later today in Fortaleza.  The Brazilians have been led in the tournament by their star striker, Neymar, who has four goals.  But as a team, Brazil has struggled at times.

Colombia has beaten its four World Cup foes by a total score of 11-2.  Its goal tally of 11 is the second-highest in the tournament.  Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez is the World Cup’s leading scorer with five goals. Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002, while Colombia is in the quarterfinals for the first time.

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