Spain’s Title On the Line, Holland Look To Seal Qualification And Croatia Must Forget The Heartbreak

It’s easily been the most engrossing start to the world cup and already comparisons are being made to the most memorable world cups of the past. With only a solitary goalless draw so far, most matches have lived up to their billing and often surpassed most expectations. Clearly, these are exciting times for football fanatics all-round the globe.

Our next set of matches has some mouth-watering prospects, and if this world cup has told us anything it is to expect the unexpected.

Here’s the fascinating lineup of duels for June’18th:

Australia v Holland

Spain v Chile

Cameroon v Croatia

TheHardtackle brings you five things you should look forward to on another epochal day in World Cup football history.

Will Van Gaal Persist with the 3-5-2?

On the surface, as things stand, and what transpired against Spain, well why shouldn’t he? As the saying goes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but Van Gaal’s tweak against Spain was more down to necessity rather than invention. He acknowledged the superiority of the opponents – Spain are after all defending champions – and abandoned his favorite 4-3-3 in favor of the more solid and counterattacking 3-5-2.

Now Holland face up against the Aussies and LVG’s team are definitely the overwhelming favorites. Holland can now play on their strengths and they don’t really have to bother about the opposition being superior. So, the Plan A (4-3-3) could make a comeback.  However, one suspects that LVG will resist the change, especially in the absence of his midfield lynchpin – Kevin Strootman.

LVG v Ange Postecoglou: The Battle of the wits

While Van Gaal is renouned all over the world as one of the most brilliant footballing brain, Postecoglou is not any also-ran. The Greek can appear reserved and largely emotionless, but be rest assured he can match up to the best in the world when it comes to tactics. Postecoglou’s played a pivotal role in almost single-handedly altering the football philosophy in Australia. He championed a modern high-tempo possession-based attacking game at Brisbane and as success followed all of Australia took notice and followed his lead.

Nothing needs to be said about Van Gaal’s vision, the Dutchman is one of the most celebrated coaches in football, ever, and has always lived up to the traditions of attacking football but also evolved with time.

Spain’s defeat was overstated and over criticized

Yes, Spain were run ragged in the closing stages of the game by the Dutch and were thoroughly beaten, however the score line doesn’t reflect the balance of the game. For the first 30 minutes Spain were in control and had taken the lead. David Silva then contrived to miss a guilt-edged chance, at that moment if the Man City player scores Spain are all but cruising. But within a few minutes Robin Van Persie scores out of nowhere, in fairness he shouldn’t be scoring that. That goal was one of a kind, and suddenly the match comes is back in the balance.

Then Iker Casillas choses a wrong day to lose his mojo and it all crumbles down from there on. On another day Spain would be two up at half time and in control, but credit to the Dutch for taking their chances and making it a memorable day for their fans.

Spain’s possession football v Chile’s Counterattack

Iker Casillas went into the game against the Netherlands looking to break the record of Italian keeper Walter Zenga of going 517 minutes without conceding a goal in World Cup Finals. Well, that didn’t turn out so well. However, redemption will be on their minds and they could look for inspiration at their own performances from the previous edition.

Spain will monopolize the ball, that’s their mantra and they swear to live and die by it. However, what they must do is move the ball a lot quicker and incisively. There is also a school of thought that one of Xavi or Xabi Alonso could make way for Koke in midfield, but the coach would resist such a drastic change. Also under threat is Diego Costa’s starting place, the soon-to-be Chelsea striker was largely anonymous and contributed little to Spain’s play, although he did win the penalty that lead to Spain’s opener. Possibly, Cesc Fabregas might get a look in as a ‘False Nine’.

Chile on the other hand depends a lot on Vidal’s brilliance and Sanchez’s pace and finishing. But the Juventus midfielder hasn’t been fully fit and that could play a big role in deciding the outcome of the game.

Croatia must forget the heartbreak and move on

Croatia were extremely unlucky not to get anything out of the game against the host, the refereeing was dubious to say the least. Since then a lot has transpired with nude pictures being clicked of the Croatian players in the pool, it’s fair to say that Croats aren’t a happy bunch.

Niko Kovač mustn’t let his side get distracted from the actual task at hand – qualifying for the next round. He could use the unfortunate turn of events and instill a siege mentality among his troops. Croatia are still the second best team in the group, on paper, expect a backlash and a resounding win by Kovac’s men.