The round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup continues as the big match of the day also opens it with a very interesting clash between the Netherlands and Mexico in Fortaleza, while the two surprising sides of Costa Rica and Greece will face off in the later edition at Recife.
The Dutch playing Mexico should be one of the best matches we’ll have at this stage, maybe in the World Cup. While on paper this Netherlands team didn’t look very impressive going into the tournament, especially when looking at the young names on defense, never the strongest part of a Dutch side, things have turned out quite differently, and not just because of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
Louis van Gaal and his 5-3-2 have been able to compensate for inexperience in the back or overall quality of his defenders. Both Nigel de Jong and Jonathan de Guzman don’t do much when the Netherlands have the ball, but both of them drop very deep and release the ball quickly, which has made it very difficult for teams to press the Netherlands in their own half, except for some worrying moments in the match against Australia.
The goals come from two players more or less. Wesley Sneijder is still influential but by no means the player from four years ago. Arjen Robben has complete authority to ignore everyone and everything on the right wing which is just how he likes it. Robin van Persie, after a frustrating season at Manchester United, has been clinical and overall fantastic in the penalty box, which means problems for a good yet not perfect Mexican defense.
Few teams have played better football than Mexico so far in the tournament. Andres Guardado and Ander Herrera have been brilliant in the midfield trio, while Carlos Pena is likely to start instead of Jose Vazquez in the middle of the pitch. Despite his goal in the previous match, Javier Hernandez will continue to play behind Oribe Peralta, waiting for a chance to impress his new Manchester United manager.
It’ll be interesting to see who does more tweaking. Both teams play a similar system, although Mexico probably give more freedom to their wing backs when attacking. That might change against a Dutch team that has been deadly when counter attacking, but it should give us plenty of blown coverage on the wing, which should lead to plenty of goals as well.
Great football might not be the thing we’ll remember from Costa Rica and Greece. Two teams that don’t want the ball at their feet, but have the ability to move things forward quickly when necessary. The Ivory Coast seemed stunned by the Greek ability to actually play football in the deciding group match, when the famous spirit and will power resulted in a late penalty kick and a calm finish from Samaras.
Costa Rica haven’t been tested in that way so far. They have been behind against Uruguay in the first match but came back very quickly. They do not let teams get behind them on defense and attack very quickly through the wings, not to mention showing some surprising superiority through their own set pieces. Joel Campbell knows the Greek defense well, but it might serve them better than him, as his ability to make a difference hasn’t been really shown since the first match.