Vladimir Weiss, now a national hero just days after being at the bottom of the barrel, will have his men pumped up after legendary result. But in wait lie the Netherlands. The Oranje have so far failed to break a sweat, they have absolutely walked their group. They have two of Europe’s finest performers from the last year Sneijder and Robben, the very underrated yet highly rated Robin Van Persie (match winner), the more than just tireless Dirk Kuyt, the yet to show his best Rafael Van Der Vaart and a steely central midfield.
The two trump cards are however Sneijder and Robben. Before the Dutch whimpered out of the last Euro’s, Sneijder was undoubtedly the best player in the competition. His season with Inter has brought out his best, while Robben is well rested and in the prime of his career, and this may be his world cup. Like their group, I expect the Dutch to walk this even if Slovakia are high on confidence.
The head-to-head Netherlands v Slovakia record is deceiving, at least if you follow official FIFA stats. Netherlands have actually never played Slovakia before, although they did play Czechoslovakia 9 times before the country’s dissolution in 1993, winning twice, losing 6 times and drawing once.
With past performances a moot point, it falls to the recent performances of both teams to give us an indicator of who will win this second-round tie.
Netherlands have quietly going about their business, winning games without kicking into overdrive. They had a relatively sedate group in Japan, Denmark and Cameroon, but as the English discovered, FIFA rankings and strength-on-paper isn’t enough to win your group. The Dutch have done it in convincing fashion, winning all 3 games and conceding only once.
They’ll be especially happy to see Slovakia progress at Italy’s expense, because the one thing Netherlands have not come up against is a quality defending unit (and regardless of what you say about Italy, if they had qualified you would have expected to see them perform much better as a team) and Slovakia aren’t going to pose too great a threat to Sneijder and co.
Robben is expected to be fit for the Slovakia game, although they might use him only as a sub and hold him back for the big quarter-final tie, expected to be against one of Brazil and Chile.
Slovakia qualified for the second round at Italy’s expense, and to be fair they were the better side in a final group game that saw Italy wake up only for the last 15 minutes (there was that offside call, but still). Netherlands will be a whole new level for them, and progress beyond the second round will largely depend on the continuation of the excellent team spirit they displayed in getting out of their group.
Netherlands v Slovakia Betting Tip
Slovakia are 7/1 to cause an upset and beat Netherlands. Click here to bet on this and other World Cup games.
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Also See: Soccerlens’ 2010 World Cup Second Round Preview.