A potentially mouth-watering fixture highlights Sunday’s action at the World Cup. Holland and Mexico have impressed throughout the tournament so far, and the two sides will clash to see who will go through to the quarterfinals.
Holland topped Group B by scoring emphatic victories over Spain, Australia and Chile. Mexico finished second in Group A, defeating Cameroon and Croatia, while holding the hosts Brazil to a scoreless draw. The last time these two countries faced each other in the World Cup was in 1998. It was in the Group Stage and the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Dutch have used three different formations in their Group Stage matches, and one wonders what coach Louis van Gaal will have up his sleeve against Mexico. One thing is certain, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie will have an impact on the match.
Robben has had a spectacular tournament so far, scoring three goals while providing pace along the flank. The Bayern Munich forward is one of the players of the tournament to this point and Mexico will need to keep tabs on him.
Van Persie missed the match against Chile due to suspension, but that only makes him rested and ready to go. The Manchester United striker also has three goals in the competition, including a wonderful header against Spain, that is arguably, the goal of the tournament. With van Persie and Robben reforming their partnership up front, Holland will be a dangerous foe.
Wesley Sneijder remains the creative force in the midfield. The ageless Galatasaray talisman can still provide quality service, even though many thought his career was on the decline. He may be a step slower, but Sneijder is an intelligent player, who can never be discounted.
Memphis Depay has been a surprising hero for Holland. The PSV Eindhoven winger has scored twice for Clockwork Orange, both times as a substitute. It’s likely he won’t make the team sheet, but he will get a tap on the shoulder, if Holland need a moment of inspiration off the bench.
Another rising star for the Netherlands is Daley Blind. The Ajax left back has been stupendous at shutting down any attack at his end of the pitch, while providing overlapping runs when needed. Blind will be an integral part of Holland’s success going forward.
One question at the back is the health of Bruno Martins Indi. The Feyenoord centre back missed the Chile match due to a concussion, but van Gaal has assured everyone that Martins Indi is fit, and will play against Mexico.
Jasper Cillessen should start between the sticks for Holland. The Ajax keeper has been good when called upon for the Dutch, despite not being very busy. Still, when a save was required, Cillessen was there.
Mexico have been consistent with their formations, using a 5-3-2 look in all three matches in the Group Stage. Don’t expect any changes in how they line up.
Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta should continue their partnership up front. Dos Santos is the playmaker while Peralta is the goal scorer. However, Peralta only has one goal so far in this tournament while dos Santos has yet to open his World Cup account. If Mexico are to advance, the two forwards will need to be more clinical around the 18-yard box. Don’t be surprised if Javier Hernandez comes off the bench as a substitute. The Manchester United striker did find the back of the net against Croatia, and just might sneak his way onto the team sheet.
Holding midfielder Jose Juan Vazquez will miss the match due to suspension, leaving a hole in the centre of the pitch. Marco Fabian is his likely replacement, but Vazquez will be missed for his rugged, physical nature.
Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera will be the attacking midfielders. Both were exceptional against Croatia with Guardado scoring the second Mexican goal. They will need to be on form against a strong Holland side.
The back five have been the strength of this Mexican team. Captain Rafael Marquez has had a superb tournament, but he needs to be careful. The former Barcelona and current Leon central defender is sitting on a yellow card, and one more means he will be suspended for the quarterfinals, if Mexico go through. Hector Moreno is also sitting on a yellow card, so he needs to be aware as well. Francisco Rodriguez is the third centre back. Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar will start at left back and right back respectively.
One of the stars of the tournament so far is Guillermo Ochoa. The Mexican keeper has been terrific between the sticks, especially in Mexico’s scoreless draw with Brazil, in which Ochoa made a number of brilliant saves. Surprisingly, Ochoa is without a club but that should change after his stellar performance in this tournament.
A battle of contrasting styles. Holland like to push forward, Mexico will be a pragmatic, counter-attacking side. The Dutch may find it difficult in the final third, as Mexico will crowd the penalty area with their five defenders. That said, Robben and van Persie have found ways to negotiate defences before, and have the ability to do that to Mexico. The loss of Vazquez hurts Mexico in the midfield, which could spell joy for the likes of Sneijder. It will be close, but Holland have too much talent. Netherlands wins 2-1, and will advance to the quarterfinals.
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