In the aftermath of the Netherlands 5-1 demolition of defending World Cup champions Spain, the world has stood up and taken notice. Questions surrounded the adoption of a 5-3-2 system under Louis van Gall this summer, and many wondered if the marriage between a progressive system and “total football” would be a smooth one – their performance last Friday put the concerns to rest. With Chile still to come, victory against Australia will see the Netherlands comfortable quality for the knockout stage. With expectations now directed towards the Oranje, on the evidence of their first match, they are fully prepared to continue to impress.
Australia on the other hand, still remain the whipping boys of the group, but they proved against Chile that they are certainly no pushovers. An inspiring performance from the Socceroos saw them lose 3-1 to Chile, but the scoreline was flattering. The South American side managed their third late in stoppage time, while Australia constantly threatened for a second on the night. While it is unlikely they will get a result against the Clockwork Orange, they are sure to put in another hard working shift.
We have seen what this World Cup can produce, will it produce a shock here as well? With expectations now firmly in their corner, will the Netherlands rise to the occasion or will they let the match slip through their fingers? Can Australia prove yet again that they belong in Brazil this summer? Here is our preview and predictions.
Projected Starting XI
Netherlands: Jasper Cillessen; Daley Blind, Bruno Martins Indi, Ron Vlaar, Stefan De Vrij, Daryl Janmaat; Nigel de Jong, Jordy Clasie; Wesley Sneijder; Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben
Australia: Mathew Ryan; Jason Davidson, Matthew Spiranovic, Alex Wilkinson, Ryan McGowan; Mile Jedinak, Mark Milligan; Tommy Oar, Mark Bresciano, Mathew Leckie; Tim Cahill
Key’s for the Netherlands:
- To pick up where they left off. After such a fantastic start to the tournament against Spain, keeping up the momentum and their level of play will only build their confidence and if they find top form, they are incredibly dangerous.
- Continue the reliance on the 5-3-2. It worked wonders against Spain, especially with the ability of Janmaat and especially Blind getting forward and supplying the forward players. It also gave equal protection for the midfield and the defense – so far, it’s been a great call by Louis van Gaal.
- With Jonathan de Guzman and Leroy Fer not being all that great against Spain, this is the perfect time to give a start to Jordy Clasie. He’s fantastic at club level, and a proper appearance will help his confidence and give the Netherlands one more midfielder who will be ready for the push towards the final.
Key’s for Australia:
- Do not change a thing from their performance against Chile. Despite the score, it was an even match and many thought Australia deserved a point from it. They played well after their nerves settled and battled back – nerves will not be a problem coming into their second match.
- Continue to supply Cahill in the final third. He did a fantastic job against Chile both in the air and on the ground, and while the Netherlands are far more able in aerial duels than Chile, Cahill is still one of the best headers of the ball in the whole tournament. He will also work tirelessly to try to put off the Netherlands back-line, which could potentially put them off.
- Make sure they bring both Oar and Lackie into the play more. If the pair of wingers see more of the ball in forward areas, that’s less time that Janmaat and Blind are able to get forward and be involved in the attack. We saw how effective Blind was against Spain, and we have not truly seen that from Janmaat yet – Australia does not want to.
- Mile Jedinak v Wesley Sneijder – Sneijder was brilliant against Spain, simple as that. While Jedinak will not be able to shut him down on set-pieces, he will be able to go toe-to-toe with him during the run of play. Unfortunately, Sneijder is not the Netherlands only creative option, but he is there main one. If he can be shut down, then the Dutch will have to rely on other options.
- Mathew Leckie v Daley Blind – Leckie has a ton of pace and a very good motor on him, so it is up to him to keep Blind occupied. We saw how effective he was against Spain with the pair of assists he had and if Australia are to have any chance of sniffing around a decent result, Blind will be one of the creative players that needs to be put off his game.
- Mathew Ryan v Robin van Persie + Arjen Robben – Simply put, the young keeper will have to have the match of his life if Australia do not want to be dealt a drubbing. Chile are solid in the attack, but the Netherlands have quality that far exceeds that, and it is unlikely that Wilkinson and Spiranovic will be able to keep RvP and Robben under lock and key.
Staff match predictions
Drew: 4-0 Netherlands – Honestly, they could probably score more than that, but they may just take their foot off the gas once they are comfortable as they will not want to risk their top players. They just have too much quality in all areas, and I really cannot see where the threat for Australia will come from seeing as how Cahill is likely to be very isolated against three center-backs. It’s always fun to watch an underdog, but this one could turn into a downright massacre if the Netherlands are not feeling generous.
Young: 4-0 Netherlands – I completely agree with Drew here that the Australian’s will be completely up against it. That isn’t to say that they are necessarily poor, they showed they have quality against Chile. They are, however, not the most clinical side and being unable to score against the Dutch will not slow the Orange machine down. Their lack of pace at center back will also be ruthlessly exploited by Robben.
Luke: 3-1 Netherlands – I do think the Australian’s have a goal in them, but certainly not two. We may not see the Dutch be as ruthless as they were against Spain, but then again they will not have to be. Three goals against the Australians will be more than enough on the day.