By Gordon Fleetwood, writing from New York
Tomorrow in the Serra Dourada Stadium in Goiânia, these two juggernauts of world football will clash once again. Their last meeting just under a year ago in the World Cup in South Africa was not a classic, but it was memorable for the Dutch fight back which saw them book a place in the semifinals. Now, Brazil have a chance for revenge - albeit one that is sugar-free - on home soil.
Since that heart-breaking loss to the Dutch in Port Elizabeth, the Selecão has gone through a number of changes, the most important of which was the appointment of Mano Menezes as the new coach. Menezes’ first priority was to replace Dunga’s dour, defensive, counter-attack based football with the smooth passing game that the world has come to expect from Brazil.
The new regime has done fairly well so far, with four wins and two losses in their six games. However, these wins came against lesser teams, while the two losses were against fellow heavyweights, Argentina and France. A win over the Dutch would go far to relieving some of the pressure Menezes is currently under. The squad for this game - as well as the following friendly against Romania - has a couple of new faces. Henrique and Fábio of Cruzeiro are included, along with the Rio-based duo of Thiago Neves and Fred, both of whom make their return to the national team after long absences. Notably exclusions include Hernanes and Ganso. The latter is recovering from an yet another injury. Reports say that Menezes is planning to go with three forwards, which hints at all out attack. This is the Selecão’s first home game in Brazil since their 6-2 demolition of Portugal at the end of 2008, and they will be looking to repeat that performance in front of the home fans.
Like Brazil, the Netherlands has tried to move away from the defensive, bruising tactics that they adopted in the World Cup that went against their nature. Unlike their South American counterparts, the Dutch did this without a coaching change. Bert van Marwijk retained his job and has begun to bring back the beautiful football expected from the Netherlands. The success of this is evident from their results since their loss to Spain in the World Cup final. In the nine matches since that game, the Oranje won eight times and drew the other. However, this record is in danger with the number of key players missing from the flight to Brazil. Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart are absent, as well as Mark van Bommel, Theo Janssen, and Maarten Stekelenburg. Even with these missing players, van Marwijk still has a lot talent to call upon with the likes of Robben, van Persie, and de Jong all making the trip. This game is the Netherlands first against a fellow football giant since the World Cup, and they will surely be eager to prove themselves.
Brazil and the Netherlands have met on Brazilian soil before in a friendly in 1999. That day an exciting 2-2 draw was the result. Hopefully, tomorrow will produce a similar game. The record between the two countries now stands at 4-3-3 with Brazil holding a slim lead.
Brazil: Julio César, Daniel Alves, Lúcio, Thiago Silva, André Santos, Lucas Leiva, Ramires, Elano, Robinho, Neymar, Fred
Netherlands: Krul; Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Pieters; De Jong, Strootman; Robben, Afellay; Kuyt; Van Persie
What’s your prediction?
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