The seventh day provides us with the first chance for teams to advance into the knockout rounds or be sent home. After Monday’s action produced only four goals we’re down to 2.88 for the tournament. Granted, Mexico’s 0-0 draw with Brazil was the best game of the day.
Australia vs. Netherlands (Group B), 12 p.m. (ESPN, Jon Champion and Stewart Robson)
The Dutch 5-1 throttling of Spain last week felt a lot like the way the Oranje came out in Euro 2008 when they smoked Italy 3-0, which was followed up by a 4-1 win over France and a 2-0 win over Romania. Of course, it all crashed to a halt in the quarterfinals when Andrey Arshavin (!) and Russia defeated the Dutch 3-1. Granted former Netherlands boss Guus Hiddink masterminded that win for Russia. If nothing else, it’s a reminder not get too high after one game in a tournament.
Robin van Persie & Co. are 99.9 percent (unofficial) through with a win here. Manager Louis van Gaal says he has a potential seven different lineups for seven different games of the World Cup. He’s not changing much vs. the Socceroos, but this game will be much different than the game vs. Spain when the Dutch pounced on the counter-attack.
It all depends on how Australia wants to play it: if it is content with a 1-0 loss, this will be a slow-paced grind with Wesley Sneijder needing to step up his passing game against a compact Australia defense. If Australia doesn’t care — realizing its chances of moving into the next round are next to impossible — and throws caution into the wind, this has 5-1 written all over it.
Spain vs. Chile (Group B) , 3 p.m. (ESPN, Ian Darke and Steve McManaman)
If the Dutch win earlier in the day, Spain is eliminated with a loss to Chile. Chile came out firing and took a 2-0 lead early on Australia, but hung on late to win 3-1. It might be strong in attack, but the Chile defense is equally weak. Gary Medel is not a center back, of course neither did Spain’s pairing of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos vs. the Netherlands.
Arturo Vidal’s uncertain status certainly puts a damper on Chile, which still figures to play it’s frantic, attacking style regardles.
We’ll see how Vicente del Bosque handles this for Spain, which looks like it only has one way to play – tiki-taka — a style that doesn’t exactly mesh with striker Diego Costa — who would be the perfect fit for Brazil right about now had he not switched allegiances earlier this year. David Villa might be 32 and on his way to MLS, but this match sets up for a chance for him to make a final impression on the international game.
Bear in mind Spain did lose its first World Cup game in 2010 and went on to win the tournament, however last year’s loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final coupled with the Dutch destruction is sufficient evidence to doubt Spain going forward.
Cameroon vs. Croatia (Group A), 6 p.m. (ESPN, Derek Rae and Kasey Keller)
Croatia is pretty pissed off due to that nude photo fiasco. Perhaps Niko Kovac’s team should mellow out a little bit after Mexico’s draw with Brazil yesterday. If Croatia wins today and beats Mexico next week, it’s through to the next round and can finally stop bitching about the Fred penalty call.
Cameroon didn’t show much vs. Mexico, but Eric Choupo-Moting does look like a player I’d target if I ran a mid-table Premier League club.
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