The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will play host on Friday to a mouth-watering clash between two pre-2010 FIFA World Cup™ favourites in the Netherlands and Brazil, two sides who have so far exhibited a lethal brand of swift, counter-attacking football. The pair are yet to taste defeat at the finals so far, having topped their sections and come through their respective Round of 16 ties to confirm the fine form shown in finishing first in their continental qualifying groups. But something has to give on Friday with one of these big names set to fall short of reaching the last four.
Both A Seleção and the Oranje hit the ground running here at the first FIFA World Cup on African soil, sealing berths in the last 16 with a game to spare. Having gone on to seal first place in Group G and Group E respectively, Brazil eased to a 3-0 win over Chile in their first knock-out tie while the Dutch were made to sweat in ousting Slovakia 2-1.
While the duo have met only three times on the biggest stage of all, these games have invariably been decisive. Indeed, at the 1974 finals a 2-0 victory for Johan Cruyff and Co sent reigning champions Brazil heading for the exit, while it was A Verde e Amarelo's turn to knock out the Dutch at the quarter-final and semi-final stage of the 1994 and 1998 editions. Traditionally known for their open, attacking and adventurous football, both countries' classes of 2010 are cut from a very different cloth. Both Dunga and Bert van Marwijk's charges share many similar traits, both preferring to soak up opponents' pressure before breaking quickly and clinically via a clutch of fast and technically gifted attackers. Be that as it may, a game featuring world-class talents such as Kaka, Luis Fabiano, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie is unlikely to be anything but fascinating.
The Netherlands and Brazil both went into South Africa 2010 with doubts surrounding the fitness of their leading men. Robben picked up an injury in a warm-up game against Hungary and Kaka was plagued by groin problems throughout his first season at Real Madrid – the club Robben left in summer 2009 to join Bayern Munich. The Brazilian No10 has gone on to provide three assists in three appearances at South Africa 2010, while the Dutch wing wizard marked his first start of the finals with the opening goal against Slovakia.
33 — The combined number of the games the two sides have gone unbeaten. The Oranje are on a sequence of 23 matches without defeat since a friendly reverse to Australia in September 2008, while Brazil have amassed ten games without a loss since a much-changed and already qualified Seleção lost a South Africa 2010 qualifier against Bolivia in La Paz in October 2009.
What they said
"Taking on Brazil is a tremendous challenge for us, but we're staying focused on achieving our objective, which is the world title. The Brazilians have a mature and solid team, who give off a positive type of arrogance: an air of invincibility. For the first time, the Netherlands are going into a game as underdogs," Bert van Marwijk, Netherlands coach.
"It's hard for Brazil or the Netherlands to sit back. They play a similar game to us: they like to take the initiative. Quarter-final games are always very cagey and sometimes get bogged down. We'll be trying to score a goal in the first half so we can play with a bit more freedom," Juan, Brazil defender.
Voice of the fans
"It'll be a tough and difficult game, which will be decided by the smallest details. The Netherlands are in good form but Brazil, in addition to the respect that five World Cups brings, are incredibly dangerous on the break. And unlike other national teams that have one danger man, Brazil have several. What a game it'll be!" pherppa, FIFA.com user.