Monday, June 28, 2010

Netherlands vs Slovakia - Preview


14:00 GMT, June 28, 2010
Durban Stadium, Durban, South Africa

Netherlands go into this second round clash full of confidence, having won all three of their matches at the World Cup so far, scoring four goals and conceding just one, and with star player Arjen Robben recovered from injury. The Bayern Munich forward feared his tournament was over before it had even begun when he picked up a hamstring injury but Robben played for 20 minutes as a substitute against Cameroon and came through unscathed.

The Dutch are big favourites to win this match but the few people expected Slovakia, playing in the World Cup for the first time as an independent nation, to make it out of a group that included Paraguay and reigning World Champions Italy. Yet the Eastern Europeans did so in style, dumping out Marcello Lippi's Azzurri with a 3-2 victory in their final game.
However, that was only Slovakia's second win in their last seven international matches and their first at the World Cup, with Vladimir Weiss's team drawing their opening match with New Zealand and losing 2-0 to eventual group winners Paraguay. The underdogs will also have to do without suspended veteran defensive midfielder Zdeno Strba, who has played all but three minutes of Slovakia's World Cup campaign thus far, in Durban.

Competition Stats

GoalsDirk Kuyt 1Robert Vittek 3
YellowsRafael Van der Vaart 1Zdeno Strba 2

Netherlands player in focus: Wesley Sneijder - He is yet to display the form that helped Inter Milan win the UEFA Champions League title this season but you get the feeling it is only a matter of time before he sparks into life. That's not to say the former Ajax star hasn't had an impact, he scored the winner against Japan, but he could do better. With Robben back in the team and the weight of expectation shared, Sneijder's keen eye for a pass and superb shooting ability should make him a key figure against Slovakia.
Slovakia player to watch: Robert Vittek - Having failed to score in nine games during qualifying, Vittek has hit three goals in three games at the World Cup to put him in contention for the Golden Boot. Kamil Kopunek is the only other Slovak to find the back of the net and that could be a problematic if the Dutch do a job on the previously little-known Ankaragucu striker. Can he handle the burden of being the star man?
Key battle: Robin Van Persie v Martin Skrtel - Van Persie bagged four goals in the Oranje's three warm-up games prior to the World Cup and although he has not quite maintained that form, scoring just once, he is the focal point of Netherlands' attack and is capable of either bringing others into play or smashing in a hat-trick himself. Trying to stop the Arsenal striker will be Liverpool centre-back Skrtel. Strong and committed, the defender's physicality has stopped the minnows being rolled over and he will have to be at his best again to keep the Dutch off the scoresheet.
Trivia: The match will be a family affair with Slovakia boss Vladimir Weiss coaching his son, Vladimir Jr., and Dutch manager Bert van Marwijik coaching his son-in-law, Mark Van Bommel.
Stats: Both these sides have only scored one first half goal at this World Cup so far.
Odds: Netherlands (1.53), the draw (4.20) and Slovakia (8.00) with Bet365. But if you back Robin van Persie to score first and the Dutch to win 2-0 you can get 12.00.
Prediction: This will be a real test for Slovakia against a Dutch side that is unbeaten in their last 22 internationals and expect to book a place in the quarter-finals. It could, and should, be a step too far for Vladimir Weiss' unfancied side.

Holland manager Bert van Marwijk and Slovakia's Wladimir Weiss 

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