Boring football is the new Dutch style
So far Holland have shown they are a solid, but unspectacular team. Bert van Marwijk’s men scored a perfect winning record in the group stage, and breezed past Slovakia in the last 16 with little effort. Despite qualifying for the quarter-finals, there have been reasons to be concerned about the quality of the football on show. However, saving the best for last seems to be Holland’s new approach.
The Oranje’s "water-carriers" more than stars have impressed so far. Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel, the two defensive midfielders in Van Marwijk’s 4-2-3-1 system, have helped the midfield to be largely functional and protect the back four. Up front, Wesley Sneijder is perhaps the only Dutchman trying to improve the fluidity of Holland’s play, while the rest of the team appear to be waiting for Arjen Robben to fully recover from his hamstring injury.
Under Van Marwijk, Holland have stretched their longest ever unbeaten streak to 23 games, currently the longest in international football. Although the coach has gone on record as saying he too has been frustrated by the lack of panache shown by his side, he always remembers the end result is his priority. The coach will continue with his radical (by Dutch standards), if unpopular, approach until the end.
Favourites Brazil choose substance over style
Brazil is perhaps the only country in which every result at a World Cup is considered a failure if victory at the final does not arrive at the end of the tournament. Dunga’s men opened the competition with a poor display against North Korea, but soon learned from this and easily dispatched the Ivory Coast in their next match, finishing with a draw against Portugal. While Chile were beaten in the last 16, Brazil’s philosophy of joga bonito doesn’t seem to have a natural home within the Seleção anymore. Dunga has shown his men the value of patience as Brazil wait until their opponents make a mistake and hit them hard with a fast moving quality attack.
With Kaka still searching for his best form, the inspiration has come from Robinho and Luis Fabiano. The latter showed his worth by netting a pair against the Ivory Coast, then scoring the second goal in the comfortable 3-0 win over Chile. Is it enough to stop the Brazilian public dreaming of Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato and Adriano? Perhaps. Indeed, the side is extremely well balanced with Lucio and Juan looking comfortable alongside full backs Maicon and Michel Bastos.
Swapping good football for pragmatism in order to triumph has caused Dunga savage criticism back home. The coach however has hit back, saying that even his most ardent critics cannot quibble with his results: The Confederations Cup in 2009, top spot in their qualifying group and the 2007 Copa America. No Brazilian flair? Dunga takes no notice of that, and as with his opposite number van Marwijk, will continue with his radical, if largely unpopular, choice.
Players to watch
Holland – Arjen Robben: The Bayern Munich winger can add speed and fantasy to the Oranje, two things they’ve missed so far. Provided Robben starts the game he should prove a constant thorn in the side of the Brazilian defence, forcing left back Michel Bastos to pay less attention to his attacking duties. Although the winger has not yet hit peak fitness, he did notch the opening goal against Slovakia. Robben was also key in Holland’s 2-1 win over Cameroon – his World Cup debut – hitting the inside of the post with a powerful shot and providing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar with the assist for the winning goal.
Brazil – Maicon: Brazil’s right back opened the scoring in the country’s first match against North Korea, slotting home from an unlikely angle. The Inter man’s unique mix of speed and strength along the right flank can be the perfect weapon against the Dutch defence, considering that along the way he will meet 37-year-old Giovanni van Bronckhorst. In the last 16 Maicon kept Chile’s dangerous wingers Mark Gonzalez and Jean Beausejour relatively quiet.
On paper Brazil vs Holland should be a triumph of attacking and spectacular football, but that expectation looks unlikely to be met. The win at all costs mentality held by both Van Marwijk and Dunga is not the best guarantee of a thrilling match. Both coaches will focus on strong tactical organisation, patiently waiting for the other side to make a mistake. This quarter-final looks set to be a game of chess, where the smartest, or even the luckiest, will prevail. In the end a close contest, probably heading towards a goalless draw that Brazil will win on penalties.
Fonte: Inside Futbol