Friday Jun 27, 2014. 13:16
Mexico face the daunting task of trying to halt the orange tide of the 2014 World Cup’s form team, the Netherlands. The sides will battle for a place in the quarterfinals when they meet in a last 16 match at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza on Sunday, kick-off at 18h00 CAT.
The Dutch were not regarded amongst the favourites at the start of the tournament, despite being runners-up at the last World Cup in South Africa and having enjoyed an impressive qualification campaign.
Now, heading into the knockout phase, that assessment has been revised – Louis van Gaal’s ‘Oranje’ are being spoken as potential World Cup winners after winning all three group games and racking up 10 goals in the process.
Their star turns – Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder – have played important roles, but increasingly it is the younger generation of Dutch players who are coming to the fore and underlining their strength in depth.
“People usually just look at the star players and don’t consider the team as a whole," 23-year-old midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum told FIFA.com. "Plen
The likes of Memphis Depay and Leroy Fer have also caught the eye, while Wijnaldum adds that the ‘older’ players still have a key role in guiding the youngsters through difficult situations.
“We are all trying to do our best, but we still need their help. They make us feel more at ease out on the pitch. They’ve already been in this situation, in 2010, and they know what to expect and what you have to do to win. That is what we’re trying to learn, and things are going well.”
Mexico, however, can also claim to have exceeded expectations. The North Americans came through Group A unscathed, defeating both Cameroon and Croatia, while holding hosts and tournament favourites Brazil to a draw. Only goal difference prevented them from topping the pool.
They were especially impressive in defeating Croatia 3-1 in their final group match, though Javier Hernandez, who scored in the game, argues that Mexico need to defeat the Netherlands to ‘make history’.
“We’re really happy, really pleased,” said the Manchester United striker after the victory over Croatia.
“But we have to stay very calm, very humble and not get carried away. This is just one more step forward, a very important one, but just one more step. If we want to make history we have to beat the Netherlands and keep moving along the path we’ve set out for ourselves.”
Netherlands and Mexico have met in six official senior internationals. The former have a slight edge in head-to-head results, with three wins to two, while one encounter ended in a draw. The teams’ only previous meeting in a World Cup was in France 1998 in Saint-Etienne, a group phase match that ended 2-2.
The winner of the match will face either Costa Rica or Greece in the quarterfinals on July 5 in Salvador.