The Netherlands take on Chile at Noon ET/9am PT today in a match that will decide who will be the group winner. Both teams are eager to avoid Brazil in the next round, as both Arturo Vidal and Robin Van Persie have told the press. It should be a carnival atmosphere inside the Arena Corinthians today as both teams have less pressure on them with a precious 6 points apiece. It promises to be a fantastic game and both teams have shocked the world with victories over reigning champions Spain.
The main team news for the Oranje is that Robin Van Persie is suspended for this game. Memphis Depay, who enjoyed a goal scoring World Cup debut, will probably start in his place although Jermian Lens did look lively when he came on. Expect to see Klaas Jan Huntelaar at some point. Elsewhere, they should remain unchanged, with Van Gaal likely to start with 5-3-2 with the option of changing to 4-3-3 if the game is not going well.
Chile have doubts over Charles Aranguiz, who was excellent against Spain and has put himself in the shop window for European teams. Arturo Vidal is also a doubt, but both are also one game away from a ban that would rule them out of the next game. In addition to this, the highly rated Chilean coach Jorge Sampaoli, has lamented the state of the playing surface in Sao Paulo which may also influence team selection. Confidence is high in the Chilean camp, but they are determined to avoid being paired with Brazil in the last 16. Alexis Sanchez, who has had an outstanding tournament, is fit.
Both teams are vulnerable at the back. Looking at Chile’s results so far, one might be fooled into thinking their defence is not actually all that bad. 1 goal conceded in two games is very good. Nevertheless, their are two big weak links that will become exposed when Chile go further in the tournament. Gonzalo Jara, of Nottingham Forest, is a massive liability. Fans of the English Championship will have seen him outplayed several times this season. With Arjen Robben flying at the moment, this is surely an avenue for them to exploit. Eventually, at this level, he will be found out.
Then we come to Gary Medel. Medel is small and aggressive player who is good with the ball and keeps possession well. He is also a midfielder, not a defender. He got relegated with Cardiff this season and has an extremely poor disciplnary record. Medel comfortably and admirably coped with a static and lacking in confidence Diego Costa. Tim Cahill, probably Australia’s greatest ever player, exposed Medel’s lack of height and scored (and nearly had a second). Don’t back Medel and Jara to keep a clean sheet. Luckily, Robin Van Persie is not around.
While the Netherlands have conceded 3 goals in two matches, it is worth noting that two of the goals were seemingly harsh penalty decisions and possibly the goal of the tournament from Cahill. Certainly, they cough up chances but overall the likes of Ron Vlaar and Stefan De Vrij have defended well.
Chile’s aggressive pressing style, the “suicidal” press as Vicente Del Bosque called it, is utilized for two primary reasons. The first, is to win the ball back high and create a quick scoring chance. The other, is to hide the glaring defensive deficiencies (although it must be stated that Claudio Bravo is a fine goalkeeper with great distribution skills). The Netherlands should keep faith with their long diagonal passes behind the defence against Chile that has been such a feature of their previous two games. In the Australia game, the Netherlands made some very sloppy decisions on the ball and misplaced simple passes, which Arjen Robben alluded to after the match. Against a team as good at pressing as Chile, this could be decisive. The key for both teams is the out ball to the rampaging wingbacks – Mauricio Isla and Eugenio Mena for Chile vs Danny Blind and Daryl Janmaat for The Netherlands.
It must also be noted, although not much has been written about it, that Chile were very very cynical against Spain. Much has been made about their bravery and attractive style of play, and deservedly so. They were exceptional. However, the also know how to play act and fake injuries to stop momentum when ahead. Clear evidence of this is when Charles Aranguiz, was stretchered off the field and back on his feet within seconds of leaving the pitch ready to return to the fray. The true test of Chile’s mettle will come when they go behind in a game. Then we will know how good they are. The Netherlands have gone behind in both games and proven they can respond.
Overall, both sides possess strong forward players and the battle for supremacy will be fascinating. Even without Van Persie, I see the Dutch shading this one with both teams conceding.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-1 Chile