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Can the first-time participants oust another European heavyweight from the competition?

Kick-off: Monday, June 28, 16:00 CET.
Durban Stadium, Durban.

Dutch Delight

As far as group stages go, the Netherlands will be pleased with their efforts so far, seemingly playing in second gear and managing to win all three games.

The opener against Denamrk was dull and required a bit of luck when a Daniel Agger own-goal opened the scoring. Afterwards, they were the only ones able to defeat a hard-working Japan side, eventually breaking them down with a Wesley Sneijder strike. Finally, a relatively meaningless match against Cameroon saw Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar find the net, but more importantly winger Arjen Robben make a successful return from the sidelines.

Now it's time for coach Bert van Marwijk and his squad to hit top gear. The Dutch have typically been known as underachievers at the World Cup and can't afford any mistakes now. If they can play to their potential, Slovakia will fall by the wayside and the Oranje camp will be in excellent shape ahead of a potential quarter-final clash with Brazil or Chile.

Van Persie knows this better than anyone:

"Hopefully this will be our year, but we have to show now that we learned from the last two or three tournaments. Most of our guys have two, three or even four tournaments in their legs so hopefully we can show now that we learned from that. I do believe that we can win it, but we still need to do it.

"The match against Slovakia will be a tough game, very tough. I saw bits and pieces of their game earlier on and for them to beat Italy like that, it is unbelievable, so we need to be really sharp."


Slovakia Slay The Giant

After their opening two matches, in which they were extremely disappointing against New Zealand and Paraguay in Group F, no one gave Slovakia a chance against the world champions, even if Italy had not been up to scratch themselves. Nonetheless, the players finally clicked in unison and engineered one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history as they advanced to the second round and eliminated the 2006 winners in the process. Goal.com's Marcus Haydon described it as a "miracle".

They key pieces finally did their job. Centre-back Martin Skrtel was solid and decisive, playmaker Marek Hamsik's runs and passes caused problems, and Robert Vittek is in a rich vein of form in front of goal. The Slovakians will have to do even better than they did against the Azzurri to best the Netherlands.

On Monday, It will depend which Slovakia show up. Will it be the one who were abject against the All Whites and the South Americans or the team that shocked one of them ost successsful World Cup nations of all time?

Realistically, few will expect that coach Vladimir Weiss and his team could repeat the trick, but with the massive boost of confidence, they could provide a stern test.


FORM GUIDE

Netherlands

WON 2-1 (n) Cameroon (World Cup, June 24)

WON 1-0 (n) Japan (World Cup, June 19)

WON 2-0 (n) Denmark (World Cup, June 14)

WON 6-1 (h) Hungary (Friendly, June 5)

WON 4-1 (h) Ghana (Friendly, June 1)

Slovakia

WON 3-2 (n) Italy (World Cup, June 24)

LOST 2-0 (n) Paraguay (World Cup, June 20)

DRAW 1-1 (n) New Zealand (World Cup, June 15)

WON 3-0 (h) Costa Rica (Friendly, June 5)

DREW 1-1 (h) Slovakia 1-1 Cameroon (Friendly, May 29)



TEAM NEWS

Netherlands


Van Marwijk has no suspensions to consider, but Arjen Robben could make his first start of the World Cup after a successful substitute cameo appearance against Cameroon. The coach says they are being "cautious" with his recovery, but there is a chance he will feature in the starting XI. If so, Rafael van der Vaart will drop to the bench. Meanwhile, Gregory van der Wiel should return ahead of Khalid Boulahrouz on the right side of defence.

Probable Starting XI:
Stekelenberg; Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronkhorst; Van Bommel, De Jong; Kuyt, Sneijder, Robben; Van Persie.

Slovakia

Veteran midfielder Zdeno Strba is suspended after picking up his second yellow card against Italy. The defensive midfielder's presence in the centre of the pitch is likely to be greatly missed. The coach's son, Vladimir Weiss, could re-enter the fray.

Vittek will once again lead the line, hoping to add to his tally. But he will often likely find himself working on his own up front as the others drop back to try to limit their opponents. Slovakia will look to hit on the counter and Marek Hamsik will once again be relied on for creativity.

Probable Starting XI: Mucha, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Zabavnik; Weiss, Hamsik, Kucka, Stoch; Vittek, Jendrisek.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Arjen Robben (Netherlands)

The Bayern Munich star's return from injury was successful. He only played a handful of minutes versus the Africans, but his curling shot that hit the post from the edge of the area set up the winning goal, tucked away by Huntelaar. Robben has promised more is to come and against Slovakia he'll have the chance to prove it whether from the start or from the bench.

Robert Vittek (Slovakia)

Who else? The 'man of the match' versus Italy is tied for top-scorer in the 2010 World Cup with more high-profile names in Gonzalo Higuain and David Villa as of the end of the group stage. A journeyman throughout Europe, featuring in Germany, France, now Turkey, the Slovaks live or die by the 28-year-old's ability to finish his chances.


PREDICTION

The Dutch have been racking up victory after victory, and while the attacks Slovakia came up against in the group stage were average or worse, the Netherlands will be far more ruthless up front. It's unlikely their defence will be able to contend with a highly potent Oranje assault.

Netherlands 2-0 Slovaki

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