Australia vs. Netherlands: Tactical Preview of World Cup Group B Match

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 18, 2014

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 13:  Stefan de Vrij of the Netherlands looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match between Spain and Netherlands at Arena Fonte Nova on June 13, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The first round of group-stage matches is in the books at the FIFA World Cup 2014, and now we turn our attention to the second lot.

Australia and Netherlands enjoyed contrasting fortunes in the first set of games, and they now come together, fighting for very different reasons: the Socceroos to survive and the Oranje to qualify first from Group B.



Ange Postecoglu preaches a possession-based game where possible, but against Chile he accepted his side would not see much of the ball and sat deep, ready to pounce on the counter-attack.


It wasn't parking of the bus, so to speak, but attacks did largely involve runners Matthew Leckie, Tommy Oar and Tim Cahill rather than playmaker Mark Bresciano.

Credit: ITV

Bresciano's passing numbers tell the whole story, as he was largely bypassed in the defensive and attacking third in favour of a more direct, ball-at-your-feet approach.

Against the Dutch, Cahill may have three centre-backs to battle, but despite Ron Vlaar's experience and Bruno Martins Indi's hulking size, Cahill is the favourite in any duel.

The Socceroos will play football if possible, but they find efficiency in counters.

Credit: B/R



The Netherlands are tough to predict, as there's a distinct possibility they return to the 4-3-3 used in qualifying now that the Spain game is done. Per Bleacher Report's Elko Born, Louis van Gaal created the 3-5-2 formation specifically to counteract La Furia Roja's strengths.

Possible Netherlands XI.
Possible Netherlands XI.@stighefootball

Jordy Clasie, therefore, becomes a serious option in central midfield and could join Nigel de Jong (anchor) and Jonathan De Guzman (box-to-box) in midfield.

Daley Blind and Daryl Janmaat would settle into regular full-back roles, meaning Stefan de Vrij—despite his goal!—likely drops out of the XI.

No matter the formation, they'll likely dominate possession and work hard to release Arjen Robben into key areas of the pitch. Space will be hard to come by, and this will be a completely different performance from the Oranje.


2 Key Clashes

1. Behind the Wing-Backs

Should the Netherlands press ahead with the 3-5-2, they won't come into contact with a bizarre, right-winger-less formation such as the one Spain presented.

It made life easy for Blind surging forward from the left, unopposed until he hit the final third and met Cesar Azpilicueta, but he invariably got his cross/pass away before the duel ensued.

Australia will sit deeper, and both Blind and Janmaat will creep forward a little more. Leckie and Oar found space behind Eugenio Mena and Mauricio Isla; they can do the same against the Dutch.

Any space allowed to swing in a cross will be taken gratefully by the Socceroos.

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 13:  Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands acknowledges the fans after defeating Spain in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match between Spain and Netherlands at Arena Fonte Nova on June 13, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by
Paul Gilham/Getty Images


2. What to do with Wesley Sneijder?

In a 4-3-3, Sneijder has no natural place. He's looked poor from the left over the last few years for both Netherlands and Galatasaray, and sticking him out on the wing in the converted 4-3-3 could be a mistake.

With space at a premium against an Australian side in a low block, his need to drift inside could either a) break the deadlock, given the Dutch won't occupy the No. 10 space often or b) ruin everything.

It's tended to be a little more of the latter under Van Gaal, and a less sexy, yet more efficient pick such as Memphis Depay—whose long-range shooting ability could be a godsend—could pay dividends.


Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.