Flying Dutch to stay on top.
In what has been a rip-roaring start to the finals, it is the Oranje who have undoubtedly shone the brightest thus far.
Few predicted their stunning 5-1 demolition of the world champions and, in a tournament where the star names have been living up to their billing, none have impressed more than the dazzling Dutch double act of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. Spain were completely blown away in the second half of their Group B opener by Robben’s brilliance in particular.
The difference from here on out is that the onus will now be on Holland to take games to the opposition. Opponents are less likely to leave the space afforded by Spain as they chased the game in the second half, so the opportunities to hit on the counter attack and utilize the speed of Robben will be more restricted.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou has acknowledged his side face an uphill task but will take heart from his side’s opening performance, despite the 3-1 loss to Chile.
The Aussies showed plenty of character, and no little skill, to play themselves back into the game after being outclassed for the opening half hour.
The powerful running of Matthew Leckie and substitute Ben Halloran were a real feature in their spirited fightback and could cause problems down the Dutch flanks, where wing-backs Danny Blind and Daryl Janmaat were never really tested defensively by Spain’s through-the-middle approach.
Blind of course was one of the stars in Holland’s opening group B victory, providing assists for their first two goals with diagonal balls from the left. He is part of a flexible Dutch midfield and backline that switches from five at the back to five in midfield once in possession.
However, it is the potent attacking triumvirate of Wesley Sneijder, Van Persie and Robben that is key to their success. Stop them and you stop the Dutch.
Tim Cahill may plough a lonely furrow at times up front for Australia but the former Everton great has lost none of the aerial prowess that helped make him such a fans’ favourite at Goodison Park and could expose Holland’s inexperienced central defensive trio.
It’s hard to look past a Holland victory (1/4) but their rearguard should be tested as the Socceroos go for broke. Both teams to score is available at 21/20.
The match kicks off at 5pm UK time on Wednesday, June 18th in Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre.