Nelson Mandela Bay will host what promises to be one of the most intriguing and exciting contests of the 2010 World Cup thus far when hopefuls the Netherlands take on five-time winners Brazil.
Choosing a winner for such a tantalising affair is nearly impossible. The Netherlands have not yet conceded a goal from open play in this summer’s tournament and have so far won all their matches in South Africa. Brazil have yet to be beaten at this World Cup, too. However, they were held to a scoreless draw by Portugal in the group stage.
The match will surely sit on a knife’s edge and promises to be one of the most entertaining of the knockout rounds. But if the Netherlands are to emerge the victors, they will do so because of the following five reasons:
1) The Arjen Robben Factor
The Netherlands started the 2010 World Cup without Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben due to injury, but the tricky winger has already made a huge impact for Oranje since returning to full match fitness. Robben was involved in the winner in the Netherlands' 2-1 group stage win against Cameroon, and then made it into Holland's starting XI for the round of sixteen match against Slovakia. The former Real Madrid star immediately showed why he's so highly rated by gifting the Dutch the lead after eighteen minutes of play, and continued to cause Slovakia's defenders all kinds of trouble until he was withdrawn. Brazil coach Dunga revealed on Thursday that the Selecao will have to deal with the 'exceptional winger' if Brazil are to beat the Netherlands, and it remains to be seen whether makeshift defender Michel Bastos will be able to cope with Oranje's dangerman.
Arjen Robben | Reasons to celebrate2) Dirk Kuyt Will Keep Maicon Quiet
Much has been said about the lack of creativity up front in Brazil's World Cup squad, but defender Maicon has done a great job to help his forwards by putting in some excellent attacking performances. The Inter star netted one of the best goals of the tournament in Brazil's win against North Korea, and Holland will have to keep Maicon at bay if they are to progress. Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk won't be too worried about Maicon though, as he has the perfect answer to Maicon's attacking runs. Liverpool winger Dirk Kuyt is known for his excellent condition and the versatile attacker will be more than content to track back in order to defend Maicon whenever possible. It doesn't stop there though for the former Feyenoord star, as he will still have the stamina to run forward, too. In what will be a battle of the fittest, Kuyt could very well come out as the winner.
Dirk Kuyt | On one of his runs forward3) Confidence
Confidence is sky high in the Dutch camp after four consecutive wins at the 2010 World Cup. Sure, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon and Slovakia are not world class opponents, but Netherlands are one of only two teams that have won all their matches in South Africa so far. Holland's hot streak goes beyond the World Cup though, as they won all their matches in the qualifying campaign as well. Oranje are currently on an unbeaten run stretching 23 matches and the Dutch are determined to extend that sequence to 26 games under the guidance of head coach Bert van Marwijk.
Bert van Marwijk | Success coach4) It's payback time
Friday is not the first time Netherlands and Brazil lock horns at the World Cup. Oranje and the Selecao previously met at the 1994 World Cup in the USA, and the Dutch won't have good memories about that match. Brazil picked up a 2-0 lead in the second half before Dennis Bergkamp and Aron Winter restored parity to lift Oranje's spirits. However, Branca then ended Holland's World Cup dream with a stunning free kick in the dying minutes of the game. Both sides met again four years later, this time in the semi-finals. Oranje again fought back after falling behind in the second half, but the Brazilians eventually proved to be too strong after spot kicks. Twelve years later, Holland finally have the chance to get their revenge and Van Marwijk's men won't let this chance to make amends for '94 and '98 go by just like that.
Oranje squashed | Things went wrong in '98
5) The Two Meanest Midfielders Around
Previously, Oranje were not exactly known for having tough-tackling midfielders in their line-up, but things are completely different nowadays. Manchester City midfield bully Nigel de Jong and Bayern Munich maestro Mark van Bommel comprise one of the meanest midfield duos around in the footballing world and their presence is exactly what Netherlands need to go all the way. Neither midfielder is afraid to execute a strong tackle and the pair have provided excellent cover for Oranje's back four so far. They are not only the muscles of this Holland, but also the engine behind their attacking play.
Nigel de Jong | Mean machine