USA primed for historic Netherlands clash
The town of Trujillo will witness a small piece of football history in the quarter-final of the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005: the USA and the Netherlands have never met before in a FIFA tournament apart from two matches at FIFA Futsal World Championships in 1989 and 1992.
Both sides are brimming with optimism ahead of this encounter. Victories against Korea DPR and Italy meant a draw in the final group game against Côte d'Ivoire was sufficient to ensure the Americans travelled from Lima to Trujillo as Group C winners. "Despite the draw, we can still be satisfied overall because we won the group," assessed US coach John Hackworth, who is expecting a difficult last-eight tie: "It will be a tricky task against the Netherlands. I think they are without doubt one of the best teams in the world and a renowned footballing nation. We will give our all to win the game and we have just as much chance as our opponents. We know that we can play better than we did against Côte d'Ivoire and I expect us to play better in the quarter-final."
The young Americans are full of confidence then, and convinced that they have nothing to fear from any adversary in the tournament. US midfielder Kyle Nakazawa is looking forward to meeting their next opponents: "Personally, I am very happy that we are playing Holland next. I spent a period with Ajax Amsterdam when I was younger and there are many players in the Dutch team that I know from that time." Goalkeeper Bryan Rueckner is also impatient for the game to get underway: "I am looking forward to the next match. It is a massive tournament and I can hardly wait to play again. The most important thing is to play our best whoever our opponents are." The Americans will have to contain the Dutch attack without defender Amaechi Igwe who was dismissed after picking up two yellow cards and may be replaced by Nik Besagno.
Dutch camp in good spirits
Despite enduring a delayed journey and having to postpone their training session until the evening, the atmosphere in the Netherlands camp is also ideal. After a 5:3 opening win against Qatar and narrow 2:1 defeat to Brazil, the Oranje men secured the necessary 2:0 victory against African champions Gambia to see them through to the last eight.
Coach Ruud Kaiser is confident that his youngsters will overcome the next challenge posed by the USA. "I think we have the better players at our disposal." However, Kaiser is quick to acknowledge his opponents' strengths: "The USA beat Italy 3:1, which tells you a lot. We played Italy in a European Championship semi-final and were forced to play extra time to win the game. The USA have played a very good tournament so far and I am not going to be deceived by the draw against Côte d'Ivoire because they saved a lot of energy in that game. They work very well as a team."
The Netherlands also have major personnel worries with defender Mike van der Kooij's availability still uncertain. Kaiser is expecting a tense and closely fought battle: "I do not think it will be a quiet game. Both teams will go out and give their best from the outset. The Americans are strong going forward and have a powerful, quick and mobile front pairing. They are a very well balanced team with evenly balanced units within the team. It will be an exciting game and a close result. It will certainly not be a 5:3. Both teams are too strong for that."