Holland were in such devastating form in the group stages that Brazil were not keen to meet them in the second round mindful of what happened in Port Elizabeth four years ago when the Dutch stunned them in the quarter finals.
Mexico are Holland’s opponents in Fortaleza with a place in the last eight at stake. For the Mexicans - absolute underdogs in this tie – to advance, they must work overtime.
Holland forwards Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie have combined for six goals at the tournament. They could have been more had Van Persie not missed the Chile match through suspension. But more than their goals, it is their interplay that will keep the Mexicans busy.
Robben in particular has been as central to the Dutch cause as Brazil’s Neymar and Argentina’s Lionel Messi. When he hasn’t scored, Robben has run defences rugged and created opportunities for teammates. He was the biggest villain when Holland lost to Spain in the 2010 final and appears a man on a redemption mission.
But it has not been a Robben and Robin Van Persie show only. Holland are playing team football, sharing the ball and looking the deal.
Crucially the Dutch camp is in harmony. Historically the Dutch camp has been known to harbor intrigue, something observers believe has contributed to their failure to win the World Cup.
Louis Van Gaal has allowed the team to play to the traditions of their orange uniform in contrast to Bert Van Marwijk whose team from four years ago left a stain on the heritage of Dutch football.
The knock out stage is arguably a level where a team’s defensive resolve must come to the fore. The Mexicans’ only hope is to frustrate the Dutch and hope to utilise the few chances they will fashion.
For Miguel Herrera, the Mexico coach, the emphasis will be on how to organize his rear guard. Resilience sometimes works as the best form of attack.
Sunday and monday matches > ss3/ubc
Sunday, June 29
Netherlands vs. Mexico 7pm
Costa Rica vs. Greece 11pm
Monday, June 30
France vs. Nigeria 7pm
Germany vs. Algeria 11pm