As the first match of the 2014 World Cup knockout stage has been decided, and host nation Brazil will face off in the quarter-finals against Colombia next week, today will see the mighty Oranje take on the defensive talents of a confident Mexico. The winner of today’s game, set to take place at the Estádio Castelão in Fortaleza, will advance to the quarter-finals on July 5, where they will play the winner of the match between Greece and Costa Rica.
The Netherlands avoided playing against Brazil yesterday by coming out on top of Group B, however Mexico do not necessarily present the easy alternative. The Dutch should be ecstatic to have the likes of Robin van Persie back on the pitch to complete the Oranje offensive machine alongside Arjen Robben. The infamous Dutch duo has performed extremely well, contributing to the dangerous reputation of the squad offensively.
The Netherlands are World Cup leaders, having net a total of 10 goals thus far—owing heavily to their blowout against Spain in group play. In light of some phenomenal goal scoring, most notably that gem of header by van Persie, the Dutch have built a reputation for themselves that is bound to intimidate an opposing defense. The brilliance of today’s set up is that the Dutch are up against one of the strongest defensive teams in the tournament.
Meme-worthy Mexican goalkeeper, Memo Ochoa, gave a phenomenal display in his team’s match against Brazil by making a whopping seven saves. Had he not performed like a demi-god, Mexico might have succumbed to the forces of Neymar. However, the ultimate draw against Brazil, paired with the 3-1 victory over Croatia, has given the Mexican team a wave of confidence as they brace to duke it out with the Dutch.
While much can be touted about the Dutch offense, the technical capacity of the team’s defense has been called into question. The most common critique is a motion against the “inexperience” of the Dutch defense. However, in a World Cup that has proven to mock predictions based on one team’s purported experience over another, there seems to be little cause for concern on the Oranje end.
What remains indisputable, however, is the strength of the Mexican defense. Mexico’s coach, Miguel Herrera, has been a force of entertainment and confidence for Mexican players and fans alike. Herrera’s enthusiastic display for the Croatia match has become infused with the added gusto for a Mexican victory. Not willing to settle for a Quinto Partido, Herrera says his team is going for the title, and that they are “ready to make history.”
The Netherlands will be the ultimate test for Mexico, not simply because this is the Round of 16 and the loser goes home, but because Mexico’s superb defensive performance will be tried by the likes of the flying Dutchmen. The stakes are high, undoubtedly, but the game will be a definitive test on Mexico’s capability to perform against the bigger names in the tournament.
In today’s game, the Oranje mastermind, manager Louis van Gaal, will be up against the felicitas of Herrera. The players to watch today will be defender Miguel Layún and Memo Ochoa on the Mexican side. For the Netherlands, the duo up top is bound to combine extremely well with the likes of defender Daryl Janmaat—who reportedly has an inquisitive Manchester United knocking at his door. Regardless, today’s match between Mexico and the Netherlands will be one of the more exciting and revealing of the 2014 World Cup. It is indeed a game between the arguable leaders on offense and defense, and confidence abounds on both sides of the pitch.
Read more Guardian Liberty Voice Coverage on the FIFA World Cup Round of 16
Commentary by Courtney Anderson