By Jesse Wieten
FORTALEZA, Brazil, June 29 (Xinhua) -- The Netherlands and Mexico will meet on Sunday in Fortaleza in the last 16 of the World Cup, with the Dutch trying to maintain their efficiency, while Mexico wants to end a series of eliminations in the second round.
It was impressive what the Dutch showed in the first three matches of the World Cup, beating Spain (5-1), Australia (3-2) and Chile (2-0). "Oranje" was the only team scoring 10 goals in the group phase, but this was not based on an attacking style. No, the Dutch presented themselves as a counter-attack team in Brazil, leaning on the individual class of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. Both Robben and Van Persie, who returns from suspension, scored three goals in the group phase.
One could say that's very clever by coach Louis van Gaal, because the rest of the team, apart from Wesley Sneijder and Nigel de Jong, is too inexperienced and not good enough to play a different kind of football. However, one could also say it's a breach with a long-lasting tradition of attacking Dutch football, starting in the seventies.
The 2010 World Cup final Dutch team, under coach Bert van Marwijk, already played less attractive than the Dutch team of previous editions, but at least that team tried to control and dominate matches. That is not the case this time.
"You must develop a strategy that suits the players and it's nice to see as a coach that that is confirmed by the results," Van Gaal reacted to the criticism. "We have quality to create chances and covert those chances."
The Netherlands showed some efficiency indeed. The Dutch had the most efficient attack in the group phase of the World Cup, scoring 10 goals from 39 shots (26 percent). The question now is if they can continue with this efficiency rate against the Mexicans, who had the most efficient defense, conceding only one goal from 35 shots (3 percent).
After Spain, Australia and Chile failed maybe Mexico has the answer to prevent the Dutch from playing their now favorite counter game, by staying in defense themselves.
However, Van Gaal expects a similar game as in the last group match against Chile, when the Dutch only had 36 percent ball possession. "They almost play identical," said Van Gaal on Saturday during the press conference. "They play to their abilities and are very combative, even more than Chile."
Mexico reached the second round after beating Cameroon (1-0) and Croatia (3-1) and drawing 0-0 against hosts Brazil. They can get to the quarterfinals for the first time on foreign soil, after making it to the last eight in 1970 and 1986 as hosts. Mexico have been eliminated in the last 16 in the last five World Cup finals.
"The atmosphere in the group is excellent, but that's not the only thing," Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said. "We all know what we need to do, we are very solid. We are confident and ready to write history."
The coach made no secret of his line-up against the Netherlands. Carlos Salcido will replace suspended midfielder Jose Vazquez. "That's the only change," Herrera said. "He can give the team something different, experience for instance. All our players are good enough to start."
Based on the last training the Netherlands could also have a new face in the line-up. Paul Verhaegh might replace Daryl Janmaat as right back. With the possible change Van Gaal loses one "guarantee" for a good result. Holland have not lost any of their 19 international matches in which Janmaat played.