Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Netherlands v. Slovakia

By: Jacob Singer

FT: 2-1

The Dutch outclassed Slovakia in the round of sixteen.  Despite a couple of opportunities in the second half, Slovakia’s strikers couldn’t find the back of the net.  Their only goal came from a last minute penalty kick.  Meanwhile, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder scored the two goals which will see the Dutch through to the round of eight where they will face off with Brazil.

For the first time in this tournament, Robben found himself in the starting eleven.  He took the right flank while Dirk Kuyt was switched over to the left, leaving Sneijder and Van Persie in the center of the pitch.  A majority of the first half consisted of possession football; the Dutch didn’t hesitate to feed the ball back to defenders and the goalie.  The Slovakian midfielders and


Photo from fOTOGLIF

forwards created few scoring opportunities in the first half, and when they did they simply didn’t have the ability to finish.

In the 18th minute, a pass from deep within the Dutch half found Robben breaking along the right flank.  As he approached the goalie box, he cut in and released a shot to the netting of the inside post.  That marked Robben’s twelfth international goal.

At the start of the second half, both sides were firing on all cylinders.  Each had great opportunities to score but failed to convert.  The Slovaks had another two chances around the 67th minute.  The Dutch defense will need to focus on marking players if they plan to defeat Brazil on Friday.  Too many times the Dutch seemed to have been caught flatfooted.  Brazil’s quick one-touch style of football has the ability to outperform the Dutch if they continue to play loose defense.  The Slovaks lacked the finishing touch to make the Dutch pay, but what will happen against the likes of Robinho, Kaka, and Fabiano?

In the 84th minute, a through ball found Dirk Kuyt in the goalie box.  Jan Mucha, the Slovakian goalie, came out to clear the ball, but Kuyt controlled the ball with his head and created a bit of space.  He lacked a clear shooting opportunity, but found Sneijder sprinting down the midfield.  Kuyt laid the ball out for his teammate, who easily scored on the open net.

At the end of stoppage time, Martin Jakubko went to take a half-touch around Stekelenburg, the Dutch goaltender, who dove for the ball.  Jakubko left his feet in the mix and tripped over the goaltender which earned a penalty kick.  So at the last possible moment in the match, Robert Vittek scored a goal and became Slovakia’s top international goal scorer.

In 1994 the Dutch lost to Brazil 3-2; in the following World Cup they lost to Brazil in a shoot out.  Will Friday be more of the same?  Or will this unified Dutch squad outplay their nemesis?

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