Monday, June 28, 2010

Preview of Round of 16. Match 5: Netherlands v Slovakia

This is Oranje versus Repre. It's two different forms of history on the line. For the Dutch they have been in two consecutive finals in the 70's and a fourth place finish in 98 and are widely considered to have a rich football tradition that often highlights beautiful football over the art of winning. For Slovakia they are in their first world cup as an independent country so have already kicked off history by making the round of 16. They are descended from a great lineage however of Czechoslovakian football.

The Dutch have been in the round of 16 seven times and failed to progress on 3 of those occasions. They are very much the favourites in this match. Partly due to some of the irresistable players they have and partly because they cruised through the group stages at second gear but still won all three games. Slovakia were terrible against Paraguay and brilliant against Italy. It depends which one turns up as to how much of a chance they will have.

Key players

For the Dutch it's their exciting quartet of players who can win any game when they are on song: Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and van der Waart. They also have good solid midfield players in Nigel de Jong and Giovanni Mark van Bommel. If anything their defence is the weakest area but looking at it man for man it is still pretty darn good.

For Slovakia it will be Robert Vittek that needs to be in the goals, Marek Hamsik will cause problems and Skrtel is a big bruising defender. The manager dropped two of their bigger names in Vladimir Weiss and Stanislav Sestak in their last game and it paid dividends - it's hard to know what he will do tonight. One things for sure they have some quality throughout their squad as they demonstrated against the defending champions.

Expectations: It's hard to predict. Logic would suggest Slovakia will sit back and look to counter-attack with the Dutch making the play, but it's really hard to know for sure. It will be a shock if the Netherlands lose but they've shown time and time again you can't write off a Dutch implosion. At least this time there doesn't seem to be fights within the squad. We shall see when the game kicks off at 2am NZ time!

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