It is true that both these teams have accumulated the maximum points in their World Cup matches so far. It is also true that these teams play beautiful attacking football since I don’t know when.
When Brazil scores, it’s like “Wow, that was just fantastic!” But that doesn’t surprise me because it is what is expected of them. The results may be the final say for every individual contest, but how you play it determines the result. The draw with Portugal sees their beautiful attacking football come to a halt, so is the story with Switzerland – Spain and Slovakia – Italy. Even if you have 7 players comitting to press forward the pitch and attack the net, you are still at a man disadvantage when the opposing team decides to play with 10 defenders and just play a direct, long pass to the lone center-forward. But what they will be facing next isn’t the type to field 10 defenders.
Holland has also won every match, but as a fan’s point of view, it was all unconvincing. We haven’t seen the flair, the magic, the technical supremacy of these Dutch side, like the one who crushed Italy and France in the Group of Death (Euro 2008) 2 years ago. But, they are not a perfect team after all, having exposed their defensive lapses by an efficient Russian team (Dutch lost 3-1 in extra time). We have seen the Dutch win every game, but something is still missing. The road to World Cup for the Oranje has been magnificent. The loss to the Russians was their last loss as a team for the past two years – and counting! They’ve added depth to their squad now, but the core is still the same. Against Brazil however, they should be more disciplined and probably more committed to their marking/tackling.
Brazil has a lot of the best individual football performers in the world in their lineup. Even their substitute players are well known for attacking football. We have even seen Daniel Alves and Maicon play at the same time! Gilberto Silva/Josue is just the man they need as a holding midfielder who will keep the possession for the A Selecao. They will have to use him even more this time around, as they might not enjoy as much possession as they had from the other games.
Offensively, it will be Luis Fabiano and Robinho who will give Joris Mathijsen and John Heitinga lots of problems. The two forwards’ abilities to create their shots might prove to be the way to break down a not-so-impressive Dutch back four. The two defensive midfielders of the Dutch squad, Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, should be enough to see off Kaka’s brilliance in the attacking half.
On the other hand, I don’t know if Michel Bastos will still feature as Brazil’s left-back, but if he does, then he will need support from Juan or Lucio in covering Robben on the right. Dirk Kuyt will feature on the left while Wesley Sneijder to play role as that of Kaka’s. I am aware however that the defensive partnership of Juan and Lucio are definitely better than that of Mathijsen and Heitinga, so it will be a real test for the Dutch attack. Robin van Persie had shown little magnificence in his last game, so we really need him to perform at the top of his game and probably shoot when he has the chance – because there will only be few.
If, however, Rafael van der Vaart and Eljero Elia are substituted into the pitch with Sneijder/Robben/van Persie, then it will probably give the resilient Brazilian back four much more problems if they all decide to roam around the pitch freely and creatively. In my opinion, Robben, Sneijder, van der Vaart, and van Persie can play any position on the attacking half of the pitch. If they do, then hopefully, this may just confuse the defence of Brazil resulting in a goal.
It may just happen. Once. At max. But the never ending supply of pace and creativity by Robinho, Luis Fabiano, Kaka, Nilmar, and Dani Alves will be a major headache for Bert van Marwijk.
Key Matchup – Maarten Stekelenburg v Brazilian Attackers
Sad to say, Brazilian forwards will have their way to the Dutch back four, resulting in a lot of shots (most of which will be on target). So Stekelenburg will have to be at his very, very best to parry (even the unthinkable) ALL of them, to be able to stand a chance against Brazil, because I doubt the Dutch will be able to score against Julio Cesar. Well, maybe one.
My heart is with the Netherlands team, but on paper – Brazil has more pace and experience in their arsenal, and that should be enough to see them through in this tightly contested quarter-final match. I’d say 2-0 Brazil. Unless of course we see the good’ol Dutch side a la Johann Cryuff players, then it will be an entirely different story. At their best, they can beat any team at any given time. But so far, we just haven’t seen that same team at all. Everything has been long shots and lucky plays. But as I have repeatedly said, if that Dutch masterclass will be there at that pitch tonight, it might even be a 3-2 scoreline for the Oranje.
Man of the match: (1st case) Robinho; (2nd case) Arjen Robben. Yep, this game is about speed and seeing off defenders on one-on-one situations.