The FIFA World Cup 2014 knockout stages have arrived, with 16 teams exiting at the group stage and the rest left to fight it out for the ultimate prize.
Brazil and Colombia are already through, and here we preview the next blockbuster clash: Netherlands vs. Mexico.
The Netherlands' late formation change coming into the competition, switching from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 due to the absence of Kevin Strootman, has been a godsend for the Oranje.
Louis van Gaal is a master tactician and knows exactly how to play games; if he doesn't crack it from the off, he'll fix it at half-time.
He's being coy, as usual, about whom he plays and how he plays, but Bruno Martins Indi likely won't start due to lingering concussion symptoms.
Robin van Persie is back from suspension, Daley Blind will move back to left wing-back and Nigel De Jong will continue to marshall the midfield.
Expect a team not too dissimilar—if at all dissimilar—to the one who beat La Furia Roja in the opener.
Mexico have entertained the masses thus far, combining superb wing-back play with attacking intent and defensive resilience.
Rafa Marquez has been fantastic at the heart of the defensive line, dribbling out with the ball and dominating aerially; Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez are spurring each other on to new heights, while the midfield have created and tackled with aplomb.
Miguel Herrera has a happy group who've already overcome two incredibly stern tests in the form of Brazil and Croatia. Could the Dutch be the next on the list?
The only concern heading in is the suspension of Jose Juan Vazquez. After Vazquez picked up a second booking versus the Vatreni, Mexico need to reconfigure in midfield.
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Pace vs. Age
The Netherlands don't control from their 3-5-2 formation—they react.
Against Spain they soaked up lots of possession then released their runners into space over the top. Blind and Co.'s expert through-balls found their targets, and Arjen Robben combined with Van Persie for a five-goal display.
It will be particularly interesting to see how the creaking, aging back line of Mexico deal with Robben's ability to stretch the pitch. The strikers they've come up against so far—Samuel Eto'o, Mario Mandzukic and Fred—haven't been able to get them on the turn.
2. Replacing Vazquez
Vazquez has been a key figure in Mexico's strong form early on, so to lose him to suspension for the fourth game is a big blow.
He's an important conduit for possession, bringing the ball out from the back and moving it quickly into his dangerous colleagues' feet. He also tackles well, breaking up attacks with an average of two tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game (per WhoScored.com), sparking quick counters.
There is no like-for-like replacement on the squad, so Herrera must turn to different options in Marco Fabian or Carlos Salcido. Will they be able to quell Wesley Sneijder?
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.
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