Netherlands have qualified for the knock-out stages with a cent percent record, but it won’t be unfair to say that they haven’t hit their top form yet. With the likes of Denmark, Japan and Cameroon in their group, it took three professional performances from the Dutch to make it three wins out of three. Nonetheless, the wins were well deserved and had moments of quality indicating the class and quality team possesses.
Arjen Robben came on as a substitute in their last game against Cameroon and looked inventive and sharp. His late cameo gave the Oranje a chance to believe that they could go all the way. Van Persie also found his scoring touch with a brilliant opening goal against Cameroon and he, together with Robben, could cause great problems for Slovakia. Defensively, Netherlands have been pretty solid with De Jong and Van Bommel protecting the back four potently. Coach Marwijk will also be looking up to Wesley Sneijder, who has been below par sans a few moments of individual brilliance, to replicate his performances in Inter Milan colors.
A worry for Marwijk is that six of his first team players are on yellow cards. Van Persie, Van der Vaart, Dirk Kuyt, de Jong, van der Wiel and captain van Bronckhorst are on the list and will miss out on a potential quarter-final appearance should they get booked again while Netherlands get past Slovakia.
Slovakia, on the other hand, comes in to this match with a sky-high confidence after their brilliant performance to knock-out champions Italy in the group stage. Their brilliant display against the Azzurris in a high pressure game proves that they are up for it and can deliver against a big team in a big game.
Joint top scorer Robert Vittek is the key to their chances in this knock-out tie. He was a constant threat to the Italians and capped his performance with a brace to take his team to the knock-out rounds for the first time as an independent nation. The highly rated Marik Hamsik and Liverool defender Martin Skrtel are also expected to play key roles for Coach Vladimir Weiss.
Zdeno Strba is suspended for the match while Jan Mucha, Peter Pekarik, Jan Durica, Robert Vittek, Stanislav Sestak and Vladimir Weiss are one booking away from suspension.
The Dutch are favourites to win against Slovakia, but then again, even the Italians were.
World Cup Head-to-Head Record: no previous meetings
World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
Netherlands: Played 39, Won 19, Lost 10, Drawn 10
Slovakia: First World Cup Appearance
Other Key Facts:
1) Robert Vittek became Slovakia’s all time joint top goal-scorer (22), level with Szilard Nemeth, after two goals against Italy. He has the chance to go one better.
2) Netherlands have won only two of their previous nine meetings, but they were all played against Czechloslovakia.
The high flying winger has given a scintillating performance in the seventeen minutes he has played in the World Cup. Coach Marwijk has indicated that he might start the Bayern Munich winger on the bench in order to give him more time to recover from his injury. But, expect him to be involved pretty soon if the Dutch fail to get a breakthrough.
The all South American clash could prove to be one of the most entertaining games of the World Cup. The Brazilian flair is known to all but Chile has been just as entertaining in the group stage which makes it an excellent game to watch for the neutral.
Brazil come into this match after topping the so called group of death. After a hard-fought win against the lowly DPR Korea, the Brazilians were at their supreme best to shrug off Ivory Coast. The draw against Portugal was a dull game, but by then only a point was required for Dunga’s men to top the group.
Dunga would welcome the return of star midfielder Kaka to the starting eleven. The Real Madrid superstar missed the game against Portugal due to suspension for a harsh red card received in the previous game. Elano’s fitness is a cause for concern which means Dani Alaves could remain a starter if the ex-Manchester City midfielder fails to recover from his ankle injury. Melo and Gilberto will be the key men defensively, which would allow full-backs Maicon and Michael Bastos to join the attack.
Fabiano, Ramires, Melo and Juan are one booking away from being suspended for the next game.
Chile, on the other hand, have three players missing from this game. Marco Estrada was red carded, while Waldo Ponce and Gary Medel picked up their second yellow cards in their defeat to Spain. Matias Fernandez returns after serving his one match suspension.
The team, though, has been a breath of fresh air and have impressed all with their attacking football. They were pretty dominant against the Spanish side before conceding through a goalkeeping error. They also showed good discipline in defence after being reduced to ten men in the first half, conceding no further goals after the sending-off and even managed to pull one back.
Alexis Sachez has been the star for Chile and has come on the radar of top European clubs following his superb performances in the group stage. He, along with Mark Gonzalez, has been a constant threat for the opposition and another good showing from these talented wingers could help Chile get past their South American counterparts.
World Cup Head-to-Head Record: Brazil have won both their previous meetings, scoring four goals in each of those games.
World Cup Win-Loss Stats:
Brazil: Played 94, Won 66, Drawn 14, Lost 14
Chile: Played 28, Won 9, Drawn 13, Lost 6
Other Key Facts:
1) Brazil have scored twenty-five goals in their last six matches against Chile in all competitions.
2) Chile made sixty-two fouls in the group stages – more than any team.
3) Brazil defeated Chile both home (4-2) and away (3-0) during the qualification round for the finals.
Player to watch out for: Luis Fabiano (Brazil)
One player who has often been overshadowed by the likes of Kaka, Robinho and previously Ronaldinho – yet his skills as a goal scorer are second to none. The striker has been in superb form for Brazil, scoring 18 goals in the last 20 games for the grid in yellow. His first goal against Ivory Coast was a prime example of his brilliant runs and accurate shooting. If Chile are to win this one, they have to keep Fabiano in check.