The third knockout game in the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup will be played between Netherlands and Mexico on Sunday, June 29. The group A toppers and Group B runners-up will lock horns in an intense battle to qualify for the quarter-finals at the Estadio Castelao Fortaleza.
Netherlands have a spotless record in the group stages, winning all their matches, and it’s worth noting that they had to face teams like Spain and Chile.
Their opening fixture against Spain, touted to be a grudge match, saw them humiliate the defending champions 5-1. They carried their World Cup qualification form – a fluid, goal-scoring one into the group stages.
The form of Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben has seen them score important goals and providing much needed bite to a slightly inexperienced side in recent years. The three-man defence by Louis Van Gaal has been successful this tournament and he’s likely to continue that against the Mexicans.
Mexico were living on the edge against their last match with Croatia by adopting a safety first strategy and looking for a draw against the Croats.
But they left it a bit late to score goals and finally to win against Croatia to go level in terms of points with the group leaders, Brazil.
They could have nicked the first spot for themselves, but fell short of improving their goal difference. Having scored just one goal in the first two matches (their only goal coming against Cameroon), Mexico followed it with three good goals against Croatia.
What this means is that Mexico’s technically-gifted midfield means Netherlands will have problems dealing with them.
The game looks to be hinging on the kind of formation that both the coaches employ. Van Gaal had continued with an extra man in the defence just to make sure that the wingers and attacking midfielders are kept in check.
Like against Chile, Van Gaal made sure that Alexis Sanchez’s run were manned by Daley Blind and Dirk Kuyt on the left hand side. The manager was bullish about his tactics in the post-Chile match conference and will be looking to implement the same against Mexico.
Mexico have played the same formation as the Netherlands with the veteran, Rafael Marquez as the sweeper – the position he made his own for the past few years.
He can operate in the midfield too when required to provide the extra man advantage when the attackers move forward. Tactically they can switch from their first choice 3-5-2 to a more defensive 5-3-2 to absorb in the attack as they demonstrated against Croatia (same like Van Gaal’s Dutch side against Chile).
Mexico will be looking towards Marquez and playmaker, Hector Herrera to be the leaders against the Netherlands while Robin Van Persie would look to extend his goal scoring record against a strong team. Suspension of Mexico’s holding midfielder, Jose Juan Vasquez might pose some concerns for coach Miguel Herrera.
For the Netherlands, Nigel de Jong has been impressive throughout the tournament being the silent shield for his defence and he might have a task at hand against the Mexicans.
It’s difficult to see Netherlands not qualifying for the quarter-finals from here on.
Netherlands to qualify: 11/20 (bet365)
Both teams to score: 19/20 (Coral)