RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Netherlands has come from a goal down to win three of their four World Cup matches so far thanks in part to their swift system swaps.
Louis van Gaal is largely relying on a 5-3-2 formation in Brazil, with two wing backs expected to push forward in quick-fire counter attacks. But the team has been reverting to the traditional Dutch attacking 4-3-3 system if it goes behind and Van Gaal also has what he calls "Plan B."
Quarterfinal opponent Costa Rica will have to be nimble to keep up with the Dutch shape shifting when they meet Saturday in Salvador.
The Dutch will have to rebuild their midfield after Nigel de Jong suffered a groin injury against Mexico that has put the rest of his World Cup in serious doubt.
De Jong sat on the touchline of the Dutch training ground Wednesday, ice strapped to his groin, doing some light stretches. A possible replacement, Leroy Fer, also only did light running as he recovers from a hamstring strain.
Dirk Kuyt could be in contention to replace him in the midfield — he's played almost everywhere else in two appearances at the World Cup.
Against Mexico, the versatile veteran started the game at left wing back in a 5-3-2 formation. When the Dutch went a goal down, Van Gaal switched him to right back in a 4-3-3 system. That produced pressure on Mexico but no goal, so Kuyt was pushed forward again to play as a center forward in "Plan B" — which was effectively a four-man front line of Arjen Robben on the right wing and Memphis Depay on the left pumping crosses into the penalty area for Kuyt and Klaas Jan Huntelaar to chase.
When that finally produced an 88th-minute goal for Wesley Sneijder, the team reverted back to 4-3-3 and, as they continued to press forward, Arjen Robben forced a penalty that Huntelaar converted for an unlikely win.
"Yes, it was an escape. But in the second half ... we created far more chances with 4-3-3 and Plan B," Van Gaal said. "So we played three formations and it is a great compliment that players can immediately execute that, but we saw that against Australia, too."
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