World Cup Round of 16 | Fortaleza | Sun 29 Jun | 5pm
The battle of the counter-attacking kings.
3-5-2 versus 3-5-2? Whatever next? This isn’t just two teams who park the bus, either, although it will be interesting to see how both adapt to playing against teams who like to draw the opposition’s fire and then hit them on the counter-attack.
Mexico needed to avoid defeat against Croatia to progress to round two, so fielded their full-strength team with holding midfielder Jose Juan Vasquez subsequently picking up a second booking of the tournament and a one-game suspension. He’ll be a big miss, with no natural replacement and Carlos Pena probably stepping in.
Holland, meanwhile, had the luxury of rotating some players against Chile having already qualified. The suspended Robin van Persie will return in plain of Jeremain Lens, Jonathan de Guzman will come back into midfield at the expense of Georginio Wijnaldum and Dirk Kuyt is likely to make way for Bruno Martins Indi as Louis van Gaal reverts to the system that did for Spain and Australia.
The Dutch will see the 2-0 victory against Chile, who effectively punched themselves out, as the blueprint, but Mexico are in confident mood after running Brazil close at the top of Group A. Hold tight, this one should be tight.
What the local media say
Despite three wins out of three going into the Mexico game, some of the Dutch press are still to be convinced by Van Gaal’s tactics. “The Dutch media needs to be convinced,” said the prickly coach to the, er, Dutch media this week. “I have to convince them.”
Key battle: Nigel de Jong vs Andres Guardado
Much has changed since Holland’s shameful showing in the final four years ago, but the main villain of the piece remains and, whisper it, De Jong is proving to be far more than just a thug, keeping possession well through his simple but effective passing and even the odd take-on (see graphic). His main job against Mexico will be to track the runs of their midfielders, who tend to take it in turns to burst forward. Guardado, a left-footer who has spent much of his career out wide, tends to be the most attacking of the three, as he showed against Croatia, powering in what proved to be the winner.
Facts and figures
- Mexico have been knocked out of the World Cup finals at the second round stage in all 5 editions since 1994.
- Mexico have scored a goal in each of their last 11 World Cup matches against European nations, losing just 2 of these games (W4 D5 L2).
- 10 of the last 12 World Cup goals scored by Mexico have come after half time, while the Netherlands have scored eight of their last nine World Cup goals in the second half.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Too close to call. Mexico on penalties after a 1-1 draw.