Both the Netherlands and Chile are responsible for the dramatic and unexpected fall from grace of Spain this summer. The Dutch thrashed the defending champions 5-1, while Chile blanked Vicente Del Bosque’s troops 2-0 consigning them to their early exit. While both have been impressive thus far, one of them will have to play Brazil in the round of 16, threatening their progression in the tournament – neither of them will want the task so early. This is quite literally a battle for their long-term tournament survival.
The Netherlands can and may settle for a draw, as they have a greater goal difference than Chile, but make no mistake, Louis van Gaal is a winner, and just as sure that Chile will play to win, so will he. However, they’ll have to do it without Robin van Persie, who has a one match suspension for card accumulation, which means it is likely that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will have to replace him.
Will the Netherlands blitz their third opponent for goals yet again, or will Chile’s blue-collar football best it’s European counterpart? Here is our preview and predictions
Projected Starting XI’s
Netherlands: Jasper Cillessen; Daley Blind, Bruno Martins Indi, Ron Vlaar, Stefan de Vrij, Daryl Janmaat; Nigel de Jong, Jordy Clasie; Wesley Sneijder; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Arjen Robben
Chile: Claudio Bravo; Eugenio Mena, Gonzalo Jara, Francisco Silva, Gary Medel, Mauricio Isla; Charles Aranguiz, Marcelo Diaz; Arturo Vidal; Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas
Key’s for the Netherlands:
- Adapting to life without Robin van Persie in the attack. Huntelaar is quite good, but he’s not the same type of player that RvP is. There will be less interchangeability going forward, and while Huntelaar is rather mobile for a striker his size, he is more of a target man. Robben and Sneijder must look to make runs off of him if he is to be truly effective.
- Keeping their shape at the back. Sanchez and Vargas are very good at finding the seems in the opposition defense and exploiting it, especially when service is delivered from wider areas. They won’t be able to physically stand up to the Netherlands defense, but they are far more mobile and have very good pace. It is crucial that they don’t get caught out in the back.
- Make sure that Sneijder is not isolated for long periods of time. The Australians did an excellent job keeping him quiet and isolated, and if they can do it, you know that Chile certainly can given the quality they have in midfield. Whether it’s support from the wing backs or the forward players, keeping shorter passing options available will be necessary.
Key’s for Chile:
- Finding a way to cope for Huntelaar in the air. Despite Van Persie’s fantastic header against Spain, his biggest weakness is his ability in the air – that is not the case for Huntelaar unfortunately. He is fantastic when service is provided to both his feet and off the ground and given Chile’s lack of height, he could terrorize them on crosses. That must be dealt with.
- Getting the best out of Vidal. He is probably still not 100% fit after his fitness concerns pre-tournament, and as such that is surely having an effect on his performances thus far. He has not been terrible by any means, but he is capable of so much more and is able to singlehandedly win the midfield battle for his team. They’ll need him to be at his best for this one.
- Making sure Sanchez is on the ball as much as possible in the final third. Be it with his ability to beat you one-v-one, or just being direct and using his pace to expose the lack there of in the Netherlands center backs, if Sanchez is able to be influential in the final third, it will cause real problems for the Dutch all afternoon.
- Silva v Huntelaar – Good luck to Silva on the day to be honest. With Medel and Jara the ones that are likely going to try to deal with Robben, Silva needs to manage a way to not only keep Huntelaar quiet in the air, but not allow his effective hold-up play to be successful in either bringing others into the final third, or laying off Robben in the box.
- Vidal v Sneijder – Vidal is a masterful box-to-box player, when he is 100% on his game and fit. Sneijder has been brilliant all tournament in regards to creating chances (shocking), and unless his ability to pull the strings is taken away by Vidal, it could be an afternoon where Chile concede two or three times in the match.
- Vlaar v Sanchez – Sanchez is the more roaming of the two strikers for Chile, while Vargas tries to make himself available in and around the box with every foray into the Netherlands defensive third. As such, as the most experienced center back, it is up to Vlaar to not only marshal the defense, but also keep Sanchez quiet.
Chile cannot settle for a draw, and if the Netherlands set’s up to play for one they will lose and I think Louis van Gaal knows this. As such, both teams will go out and try to dictate terms as neither wants an early matchup with Brazil. Both sides are very good going forward, especially the Dutch who have managed 8 goals in just two matches, but their defense has been slightly more questionable than Chile’s. That being said, the Oranje take their chances far better than Chile does, who often misfire in the final third. I will say 3-2 Netherlands.