RIO DE JANEIRO - At this point in the World Cup, the Dutch know plenty about Costa Rica — once one of the surprise packages of the tournament. What they may not know is that Costa Rica's Jorge Luis Pinto learned his coaching from the Dutchman who invented "total football".
Well-travelled Colombian coach Pinto studied at the University of Cologne early in the 1980s when Dutch coach Rinus Michels was coaching the city's Bundesliga club.
"In those years I spent my time watching him training and talking to him," Pinto said. "When I didn't have class, I went to see the club practice. I saw many things and learned a lot."
Michels was a good teacher — a few years later he would lead the Netherlands to its one and only international title, the 1988 European Championship, having pioneered the 'total football' approach — where players can change their positions during a game.
Now Pinto aims to stop the Dutch taking another step toward their first world title when his Costa Rica team meets the Netherlands tomorrow in the quarter-finals at Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova.
It is not only Pinto who knows the Dutch game well. Bryan Ruiz had a successful spell with FC Twente before joining Fulham and now plays at PSV Eindhoven alongside likely Netherlands starter Georginio Wijnaldum and super-sub Memphis Depay.
Ruiz has teamed up with a strong, fast-paced striker in Joel Campbell, propelling Costa Rica to the surprise top spot in a Group D that also included England, Italy and Uruguay. Pinto's team also has a miserly defence that has conceded just two goals in the tournament so far.
"Costa Rica has a very good team," in-form Dutch forward Arjen Robben said. "I think before not a lot of people would have expected them to go through to the next round but I think they are a very strong team and it's going to be another very difficult game for us."