2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

12 June - 13 July

2014 FIFA World Cup™

Fab four to become terrific two

RECIFE, BRAZIL - JUNE 23:  A silhouette of a traditional Mexico hat is seen during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Croatia and Mexico at Arena Pernambuco on June 23, 2014 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
© Getty Images

MATCHDAY PREVIEW – The first of Europe's last surviving hopefuls return to action as the Round of 16 continues at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Three-time runners-up the Netherlands lead the charge after announcing themselves as genuine title contenders, before UEFA EURO 2004 winners Greece take their maiden steps in a World Cup knockout phase. 

Many eyes will be on the Dutch, who won all three group games while notching ten goals and conceding three, having started their campaign by pummelling holders Spain 5-1. In-form duo Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben boast three goals apiece and the Oranje are desperate to lose their tag of World Cup nearly-men, with their showpiece defeats in 1974, 1978 and 2010 just part of a story that also includes a semi-final loss in 1998 and a quarter-final exit four years earlier.

Last-16 rivals Mexico will have zero sympathy, however, and Miguel Herrera's side arrive in solid shape after holding Brazil 0-0 in between downing Cameroon 1-0 and Croatia 3-1 in Group A. The North American side are by no means strangers at this level either, having reached this stage for the sixth finals in a row. 

Meanwhile, Costa Rica can be similarly proud of their bid thus far. Los Ticos finished top of Group D courtesy of two victories and a draw against a trio of previous winners, while stringing together performances that suggest they could journey much further if they maintain current standards.

As for Greece, they have been following an upward curve since their catastrophic 3-0 opening loss to Colombia, drawing 0-0 with Japan before the 2-1 success against Côte d'Ivoire that sent them into the Round of 16 for the first time. And, as EURO 2004 proved, they are team that nobody will feel confident of writing off.  

The matches*Round of 16
*Netherlands-Mexico, Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza, 13.00 (local time)
Costa Rica-Greece, Arena Pernambuco, Recife, 17.00 (local time)

Did you know?*Less is more: *Greece managed to clinch their historic first spot in the last 16 despite registering just two goals, including one from the penalty spot. Only Italy can boast a more 'efficient' record, having progressed in 1970 after mustering a single effort in their opening three games – although that did not stop them advancing all the way to the Final.

Second place:** Rafael Marquez has become only the second Mexican player of all time to score in three separate World Cups, following the trail blazed by Cuauhtémoc Blanco. The 35-year-old is also the second defender to have achieved the feat, Spain's Fernando Hierro having got there first.

Opposites attract: The meeting between the Netherlands and Mexico will be a clash of extremes. The Oranje possess the best attack after racking up ten goals from 39 shots (26 per cent), while El Tri have conceded just one from 35 attempts (three per cent).

Shot shy: Costa Rica unleashed a mere 26 shots during their three group stage outings. Only Chile (25) attempted fewer among the teams still in contention

Post-traumatic stress:** Greece fired against the woodwork on four different occasions during the group stage, their misfortune matched by France alone.

Suspended playersJose Vazquez (MEX)

*Treading the tightrope
*Jose Cubero, Giancarlo Gonzalez (CRC)
Vassilis Torosidis, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Georgios Samaras, Dimitris Salpingidis (GRE)
Stefan de Vrij, Daley Blind, Jonathan de Guzman (NED)
Paul Aguilar, Hector Moreno, Rafael Marquez (MEX) 

Check it outThe honour of topping the Castrol Index when the group stage drew to a close went to Colombia's James Rodriguez – a slight surprise perhaps, but this has undeniably been a World Cup of the unexpected so far. FIFA.com takes a look at the current state of play, with the index continually refining as the tournament unfolds.

Greece, meanwhile, owe their berth in the Round of 16 to the penalty converted by Georgios Samaras in added time against Côte d'Ivoire. FIFA.com recently shone a light on the spot kicks that have changed the course of important games and sometimes even the history of a team itself.

On this dayDaegu was the venue as Turkey and co-hosts Korea Republic met in the match for third place on 29 June 2002, and only 10.8 seconds had been played when Turkey's Hakan Sukur struck the fastest goal in World Cup history. Everything happened at breath-taking pace in a thrillingly entertaining game, with Turkey leading 2-1 after just 13 minutes before edging the encounter 3-2.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the latest World Cup goal was scored by Alessandro Del Piero on 4 July 2006, when he registered in the 121st minute of Italy's 2-0 extra-time success against semi-final rivals Germany. The eventual tournament winners had only taken the lead two minutes previously, via Fabio Grosso.

*Play and win *
It's up to you to decide! Has a certain player caught your eye during a game? Vote from half-time onwards and help him collect the Budweiser Man of the Match award. You can even change your mind before the full-time whistle. Chosen by the fans, and by fans alone, the winner of this prize receives a trophy at the end of each game.

Top tweetMexico defender Miguel Ponce tweeted a photo of him and team-mate Oribe Peralta ahead of Sunday's match against the Netherlands.
"I share this picture because tomorrow will be a BEAUTIFUL day. Ready to make history"

Les comparto Esta imagen porque mañana sera un dia HERMOSO. Listos para hacer historia @Cpillo24 #yosicreo pic.twitter.com/6TvogbhoB6

— Miguel Ponce (@mapb_16) June 28, 2014

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