World Cup Round of 16 preview: Netherlands v Mexico

The Netherlands take on Mexico in this Round 16 World Cup clash at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza on Monday, June 30, from 2am (AEST).

The Netherlands have defied many experts’ predictions and seemingly cruised through to qualify top of the Group of Death (B).

No team has scored as many goals (10) thus far in the tournament and their star striker Robin Van Persie was responsible for the second best goal. We all know which was the best goal don’t we?

If you are looking for a major upset in the knockout stage then “exit” written next to  Louis Van Gaal’s team would be it.

Despite Mexico only scoring four goals the most pleasing aspect is they have only conceded one goal, putting them equal with only Costa Rica and Belgium.

Their goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has been a revelation after putting in an acrobatic clean sheet display against favourites Brazil that still has the football world talking.

Head to head

The Dutch have played Mexico on six occasions with the Oranje narrowly ahead on three wins, Mexico with two and only one draw.

The total goal tally between them is shared at 22, so not much separates the two sides.

Remarkably the head to head record in World Cups stands at one draw, when the teams were pitted against each other in the group stage of France 98. On that day scores were locked at two a piece at the end of 90 minutes.

The big issue

The issue facing Mexico is their ability to contain the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie and stop them riding roughshod over the potential frailties of a tiring El Tri defensive line.

The big positive is they were able to do get the job done against attacking juggernauts Brazil boasting Neymar, Hulk, Fred, and Oscar and a list that goes on like a broken record.

History doesn’t look favourably on Mexico at the World Cup, however, and the record shows they have only progressed past the knockout stage twice in 13 previous attempts.

The game breaker 

It would be silly not to suggest that the class and combination of Van Persie and Robben won’t tear through Mexico like a knife through a soft tortilla.

The reality is the tournament now begins again and knowing it is “do or die” can be a big game changer on the mental state of the remaining teams.

The Netherlands will be at their clinical best, but a surprise packet like Mexico is best avoided for their ability to nullify the rhythm of classy teams. Not to mention they will have huge fan support. 

Prediction

This could be the potential banana skin game for the Netherlands.

Despite their huge haul of goals they are facing a Mexican outfit that has conceded the solitary goal to date.

Despite the World Cup boasting an incredible attacking record so far, the game could easily be shut down by Mexico at the back as they attempt to wear down their opponents with a tough physical in-your-face approach.

They have no doubt studied the tight tactics employed by the Socceroos, while Mexico coach Miguel Herrera has done well to deflect the world’s attention from his playing squad onto himself through his much-loved and enigmatic antics on the sidelines.  

A 1-1 result at full time would not surprise, but come extra-time anything could and will happen in this drama filled Cup clash against two such contrasting styles.