The 1986 World Cup winner has identified the defensive midfielder as a pivotal figure for the Oranje in their second-round clash with Mexico
Having won Group B, the Dutch are set to face Group A runners-up Mexico at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza later today. The match will be the third last 16 match of this summer’s World Cup.
And writing in his column for the Times of India, Diego Maradona picked Nigel De Jong as a key man for Louis van Gaal’s side ahead of the upcoming match.
“I think De Jong will be asked to do the dirty job in the midfield,” the iconic forward began. “No matter how strong the attack is, one needs spoilers in the middle, and in this seasoned fighter, the Dutch have one.”
Beyond De Jong, Maradona also commented on Holland’s myriad offensive options.
“The attacking prowess of the Netherlands separates them from others,” he started, “[Robin] Van Persie and [Arjen] Robben are on fire and their team have looked deadly on the counterattacks [sic] with Robben's speed causing devastation down the centre and the wings.
“[Wesley] Sneijder is playing just behind the two and producing good through balls.”
Maradona also predicted, however, that El Tri might have enough about them to frustrate the Oranje.
“The Netherlands versus Mexico match pits one of the best attacks of this World Cup against a team that showed remarkable defensive ability against Brazil.
“Given that they have won all three games and scored 10 goals, they [Netherlands] do look formidable, but the Mexicans are no pushovers.
“[Mexico coach Miguel] Herrera likes the 5-3-2 formation. It helps him frustrate teams with a crowded defence and midfield. They had shown tremendous positional discipline to blunt Neymar and Oscar, and goalkeeper [Guillermo] Ochoa had a dream game.
“Although they played a more open game against Croatia, I expect them to go back to the [defensive] strategy employed against Brazil. They will suffocate the Dutch for room in their own half with all that they have and look to attack on the counter.”
Whoever wins the second-round match will go on to face the victor of Costa Rica-Greece in the final quarter-final on July 5th at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.