World Cup Group B | Sao Paulo | Mon 23 Jun | 5pm
The unstoppable force against the, er, other unstoppable force.
The Dutch and the Chileans have enjoyed extremely similar tournaments. They’ve each delivered a real treat of a performance against Spain: Holland’s masterclass of power, pace and individual attacking brilliance kickstarted what has a been a superb, goal-rich tournament, while Chile’s hard-pressing 2-0 win was just as exhilarating. Their at-times risky 3-4-1-2, with very high wing-backs, totally denied the holders’ ability to distribute the ball, and released some wonderful offensive link-ups.
Whether their duel outwitting of one of the world’s greatest ever teams makes them likely World Cup winners is another matter. They equally struggled to beat the lowest ranking outfit in the tournament, Australia, and appeared defensively frail against the Socceroos in spells. A 3-1 win flattered the South Americans, and the Dutch were also tormented by Mathew Leckie & Co. If a group of virtual unknowns from the A-League can wreak such havoc, what damage can Arjen Robben, Daley Blind, Arturo Vidal, Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez do to each other’s back-lines?
It could be total carnage – and we certainly hope it is. With the winners of the match likely to play the second-placed qualifiers of Group A (decided later on the same day), avoiding Brazil (who face a poor Cameroon side) is the prize at stake. The Selecao have been far from at their best, but Chile tend to crumple against their continent’s top dogs, and however average the hosts have been, it’s not a fixture any manager would relish in this tournament.
Both gaffers will therefore be all out to top the group – but with the free-play encouraging safety net of knowing they have qualified for the round of 16 anyway. The question is, what happens when two sides who play almost ludicrously high lines meet each other? Jorge Sampaoli is consistent in his love of a 5-2-1-2 come 3-4-1-2, while Louis van Gaal tinkers with similar 3-4-1-2, 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 setups.
Robin van Persie’s absence after two cautions is a boost for Chile (and defender Bruno Martins Indi could also be absent through injury), while Charles Aranguiz faces a late fitness test for La Roja. With both teams in sparkling recent form (Holland have won their last four; Chile their last five), and both sets of fans going crackers – a sea of red versus a sea of orange – we couldn’t be relishing this one any more.
What the local media say
“Despite a lousy first half against Australia, Holland got the result, and that is all that matters at this point. Holland would love to carry on playing as they did against Spain, but that cannot be expected. They need to play the ball around more quickly against Chile.” - Algemeen Dagblad, Rotterdam.
“We want to win the group, but the really important work now comes in the knockout stages. The idea is to do to opponents what we did to Spain. There are a huge amount of Chilean fans out in Brazil and that can only help.” - El Mercurio, Santiago.
Key battle: Wesley Sneijder vs Marcelo Diaz
Chile play a genuine team game, working together as a unit, but Charles Aranguiz is the epitome of their rapid-pressing, quick-breaking philosophy. Should he be fit, Aranguiz will be vital when it comes to denying the Dutch midfield time, but in his absence Diaz will step in as enforcer and hustler-in-chief. The Basel man did a proper job on David Silva in the Spain clash, and will look to shackle the Dutch midfield scamperer in this one.
Sneijder, one of the best players at World Cup 2010, hasn’t quite looked at his mercurial best this summer so far, having a quiet game against the Aussies and being strangely anonymous in the Spain match, which often saw the Holland defence launching balls over the top of him. Nevertheless, he remains the Dutch creative fulcrum, and will cleverly feed the likes of Blind and Robben when given the chance.
Facts and figures
- Netherlands have failed to win their two games against South American opposition when the World Cup has been held in South America (0-0 v Peru and 1-3 v Argentina in 1978).
- Chile have won four of their last six World Cup games after failing to win any of their preceding 13.
- Netherlands have not lost a World Cup group game since 1994.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
We’ll go with wishful thinking: a bonkers 4-4.