Netherlands ready to challenge Brazil

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:04 AM ET

JOHANNESBURG - The Netherlands needs all the help it can when it takes on Brazil in a quarterfinal Friday.

So they don't mind piling on when everyone makes the Brazilians heavy favourites to come out on top.

"Against Brazil, perhaps we might be the underdogs for the first time in South Africa," said Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk. "But we are here for one reason, to get the big prize. We have to believe in it. People might have laughed at us when we said we were capable of winning the World Cup. But you have to show a real mentality, a constant focus. I think we are showing that."

No one laughed at the suggestion that the Dutch might be World Cup contenders. They have enough talent and they've been perfect so far in their games.

Some might have chuckled though. The Dutch have been good, but in order to challenge Brazil, one has to be much better than just good. Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt believes his team is good enough to win and looks forward to the challenge.

"We are desperate to play against them and I am pretty sure that our team is capable of knocking them out of the tournament," he said. "We have had a decent World Cup campaign till now and we are capable of beating any side in the world."

The Netherlands won't have Elano to deal with. The Brazilian is out with an injury. But Holland will have to deal with a Brazilian team is getting stronger and more confident. Brazil had come into this tournament, strangely, as a team that was strong defensively but had some issues putting the ball into the net.

Now some of the famous free-flowing Brazilian style is showing itself again. If they can combine their stingy brand of defensive football along with the samba style of attack football, Brazil will be deadly.

"It's a world football classic," said Brazilian forward Robinho. "It's going to be like a final."

It promises to be a good game but it isn't the first time in this tournament a game has been hyped and wound up falling flat. Brazil would love the Dutch to come forward and attack because the counter, is now one of Brazil's strengths.

Dunga, Brazil's manager, has had to live with the pressure as well as insults of having taken the focus away from attacking to defending. He also has to deal with slipping into the favourite's role. He knows every team will be gunning to put Brazil out, starting with the Netherlands.

"We know the Netherlands are a very difficult team to play against," Dunga said. "Their football is actually very similar to South American football. They don't try to stay defending and rely on long balls. They have technical quality and we will need to be ready for that. It's a solid team."

The Dutch may be a little more confident than they would be because of how well star forward Arjen Robben has played since returning from injury. He scored the first goal against Slovakia in the knockout round and the more he plays, the better he's getting. Hamstring injuries are difficult to treat not only physically but the injury causes a player to play tentatively.

"It was important that he played for 70 minutes," said Van Marwijk. "I think he has just passed that fear factor, having recently returned from injury. It's great news to have Robben fit."

Robben has to be in top form for Holland to have any chance against Brazil. Truth be told, every player for the Dutch has to be in top form for Holland to have any chance against Brazil.

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca


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