Netherlands look to book a place in the last eight of the World Cup on Sunday as they come up against Mexico in the first knockout round.

  • By Michael Bell
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ned chilLouis van Gaal’s side shocked many people by winning group B with three victories out of three, and they will go into the match with Mexico brimming with confidence. The Dutch have been free scoring in the tournament so far racking up ten goals in three games, which is more than any other nation.

Captain and star striker Robin van Persie is back in the starting line-up after suspension, while Dirk Kuyt is set to win his 100th cap for the national team as Bruno Martins Indi still recovers from concussion.

Van Gaal has surprised some people going into the game as it seems regular right back Daryl Janmaat will start from the bench, and Paul Verhaegh will come into the side. The coach believes Mexico are strong on the wings, and Janmaat’s exclusion may be a sign that Van Gaal wants his wing back’s to sit deep instead of roaming forward, which suits Verhaegh’s game more than Janmaat’s.

Expected Netherlands line up: 5-3-2 Cillessen, Verhaegh, Vlaar, De Vrij, Blind, Kuyt, De Jong, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie

Mexico have performed excellently in the tournament so far, with convincing wins over Cameroon, and Croatia, while they held Brazil to a deserved 0-0 draw. In goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa they have a man in top form, and it will be tough for the Dutch strikers to find a way past him.

Coach Miguel Herrera has no injury worries going into the game, but will be without midfielder Jose Juan Vazquez, who is suspended, and ex-PSV midfielder Carlos Salcido will come into the side.

Expected Mexico line-up: Ochoa; Aguilar, Márquez, Rodriguez, Moreno, Layún, Herrera, Salcido, Guardado, Dos Santos, Peralta

Both teams will not only be battling each other during the game, but also the conditions as the game being played at 1pm local time in Fortaleza means the temperature will be above 30 degrees, with humidity around 80%. The heat will sap the players energy levels, and it will be tough for both to play at a high tempo, which may suit the Mexican side better.

Previous meetings:

The two nations have met six times before, with the Dutch winning their most recent encounter 2-1 back in 2010 as Robin van Persie netted a double. Mexico have failed to beat the Dutch since 1961, but the two did play out a 2-2 draw in their only ever meeting at a World Cup back in 1998.

Key Battles:

Robin van Persie v Guillermo Ochoa

The Manchester United striker has three goals in two games so far in the tournament, and after his suspension Van Persie will be itching to find the net against Mexico. Ochoa has been Mexico’s star man in the tournament with the goalkeeper pulling off some fantastic saves, but can he keep out a rampant Dutch attack?

Nigel de Jong v Giovanni dos Santos

Sitting in front of the defence, Nigel de Jong has had an excellent tournament so far, and he will once again have to be on top form to stop Dos Santos, who is Mexico’s biggest attacking threat. He may start on a wing, but Dos Santos will drift into a number of positions to try and dictate play.

Everybody v the conditions

The match will be played in extremely difficult conditions, and whichever nation can adapt to the heat quicker may have a huge advantage.

Conclusion;

Netherlands have had an excellent tournament so far, and many will expect them to move past Mexico and book a last eight spot, but it is imperative that the Dutch do not underestimate their opponents. A fast start will be needed by the likes of Arjen Robben, and Robin van Persie in order to go in front before the conditions begin to wear down on the players.

A win and the Dutch are in the last eight, a defeat and they are going home.

Louis van Gaal has masterminded the Dutch’s progress to the knockout stages, and once again a nation puts their trust in his hands to lead them to victory.

Hup Holland Hup




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