The Netherlands and Chile will fight it out for top spot in Group B today and hope they can avoid a fearsome round two assignment against five-time World Cup winners Brazil.Both teams have won their opening two games, putting them into the last 16 with a maximum six points each and sending reigning champions Spain and Australia crashing out.
Only goal-difference separates the two, with the Netherlands narrowly top following their 5-1 win over Spain and 3-2 scrap against Australia.Brazil are favoured to qualify top in Group A, meaning they will face whoever finishes second in Group B — a match-up neither the Netherlands nor Chile will relish.
But with the outcome of Group A, where Brazil, Mexico and Croatia are separated by just one point, far from clear, Group B`s winners could still end up facing the hosts.
It is a complicating factor that neither the Netherlands nor Chile will want to dwell on before today’s game at Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. Arjen Robben clocked 37 kilometres (23 miles) per hour, a record for a footballer, as he inspired the Netherlands` deconstruction of short-passing Spain. But it remains to be seen if the Bayern Munich flyer will again hit the heights in today’s run-out, effectively a precursor for the knock-out challenges ahead.
Robben and Manchester United’s Robin van Persie have lit up this World Cup with three goals each and more will be needed if the Netherlands are to reach their second final in a row.
Coach Louis van Gaal will be looking for more solidity after some distinctly worrying moments against Australia. Against one of the tournament’s least fancied teams, the Netherlands were trailing 2-1 early in the first half before Van Persie and Memphis Depay spared their blushes.
“I needed to change something at half-time to boost their confidence and change their mindset,” said Van Gaal.“Fortunately it turned out ok, but it could have turned out differently. To recover and correct that situation showed a lot of mental strength.”
Socceroos to pile on the pain?Australia will be looking to heap more misery on humiliated holders Spain when the two eliminated teams clash in their final match of the 2014 World Cup today.
The Socceroos are unable to progress from Group B but can at least hold their heads high after two honourable losses, 3-1 to Chile and 3-2 to the Netherlands, defying gloomy pre-tournament predictions that they would be embarrassed by the world’s best in Brazil.
Spain meanwhile, the Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 champions, suffered a disastrous 5-1 defeat to a rampant Dutch side, before going down 2-0 to Chile, a scoreline that flattered Vicente del Bosque’s lacklustre team. The Socceroos and La Roja will beplaying for pride and seeking to avoid going home empty handed.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor