The World Cup has been superb up to this point, with lots of shocks and talking points, which makes the tournament so entertaining to us. There is still no clear favourite to win the tournament, with the holders going out and the hosts looking far from spectacular. These two sides were not fancied to qualify among many football fans. They expected the Netherlands to be poor, given Louis Van Gaal may be focused on the rebuilding job at Old Trafford, while Mexico were bad in qualifying and many thought Croatia would qualify from Group A alongside Brazil.
Group B was very exciting for the first two rounds of matches as Netherlands overcame Spain easily, before an exciting game against Australia. They have looked a very exciting side, with plenty of attacking talent. Obviously the pace of Arjen Robben and the class of Robin Van Persie have played a massive role in the tournament so far, but the youthful exuberance of Memphis Depay has had a telling impact. The young winger looks like he could have a huge future ahead of him, this World Cup has launched him onto the World stage. Many see the Dutch as potential winners as their route to the final isn’t too difficult, with Argentina the only major nation that they could come up against, and that wouldn’t be until the semi final.
Meanwhile Mexico have continued their tradition of making it to the knockout stages for the sixth successive time. A lot of people underestimated them going into the tournament after they struggled to qualify. They managed to do so, thanks to a USA victory over Panama, who actually beat Mexico twice in the Gold Cup, Mexico had high hopes for this tournament after their Olympic Gold win in 2012, but a flurry of managerial changes has halted their development. However it appears that Miguel Herrera could be the right man for the job as the Mexican team is starting to look like an exciting, attacking unit. His enthusiasm on the touchline is also very entertaining to watch.
The Netherlands conceded more fouls than any other side in the group stages with 68, which is at least 9 more than any other nation, highlighting their physical style of play. They also conceded two penalties in the group stages.
Mexican captain Rafeal Marquez has scored a goal in each of the last three World Cups, showing he leads through example. He is also the first player to captain a side at four successive World Cups.
The forward is returning after his ban after netting three goals in the group stage. With the teams they are due to face, there is a great chance he will be a contender for the golden boot. It’s obvious that he performs under Van Gaal, which will be positive for Manchester United fans, who will hope he continues this form going into next season. He has scored three goals this tournament, averaging four shots per game. If Holland continue to create chances for their key man, he will score goals as he is so cool in front of goal. Although the Mexicans have proven themselves to be good at the back, Van Persie has the quality to score from a half chance, so he will be a constant danger.
Guillermo Ochoa has seen his star rise during the tournament and it couldn’t have happened at a better time given he is now unattached. He will not be short of offers after his exceptional display against Brazil, in which he made several brilliant saves. This wasn’t the first example of his ability as he has had similar games for Ajaccio in Ligue 1. He could be a target for several Premier League clubs as his name is now well known across Europe. He is known for his penalty saving, which could play a crucial role if the match goes the whole distance. If Holland manage to break down an impressive Mexican defence, they will have another huge task in beating the in form Ochoa.
Arjen Robben, Daley Blind, Stefan de Vrij and Nigel de Jong all trained away from the main group in training on Thursday, so they are all doubts for the match. However they are all expected to play and the action taken by Van Gaal is only a precaution as he doesn’t want any of his players to burn out. Bruno Martins Indi is well on the road to recovery, but he is still expected to miss this match. Leroy Fer is also expected to miss the match.
Mexico are at full strength going into the knockout rounds. Rafael Marquez is likely to continue in the starting line up after his impressive showings in the group stage. While Javier Hernandez is pushing for a starting place after netting in the final group game.
It will be an interesting encounter as both sides have the potential going forward to cause each other problems. Holland have a strong attack, but Mexico have a better defence and can be devastating on the counter attack, as Croatia would testify. Unlike Mexico, Holland have two world class players in Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie and they should prove to be the difference between the two sides in a tight victory for the Dutch, but don’t be shocked if it goes the distance.
Netherlands 2-1 Mexico