All eyes are on Netherlands after their extraordinary 5-1 crushing of world champions Spain in their opening game. Our Netherlands expert Mohamed Moallim goes head to head with Australia guru Tom Smithies in our latest expert v expert World Cup preview.
Tom Smithies on Australia: Coach Ange Postecoglou must be wondering exactly what he has done to offend the gods of football fortune after seeing yet another injury to his squad. Midfielder Mark Milligan strained a hamstring on the eve of the game, to join right back Ivan Franjic in being ruled out, on top of several other likely starters who were sidelined before the tournament. The obvious replacement for Franjic is Ryan McGowan, who plays in the Chinese Super League, with a brief to take on Robin van Persie. Meanwhile Austria Vienna's James Holland, Oliver Bozanic of Lucerne in the Swiss League or Swindon's Massimo Luongo will come in for Milligan.
Mohamed Moallim on Netherlands: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. After seeing his Oranje side dismantle the reigning European and world champions, Louis van Gaal will be tempted to retain their new 5-3-2 system. However, being a pragmatist (adapting to his opposition), Van Gaal could revert to their time-honoured 4-3-3 against Australia. If so, then Jonathan de Guzmán expected to make way for winger/forward Jeremain Lens with Daley Blind moving into midfield and Bruno Martins Indi to left-back.
Tom Smithies: By the end of their loss to Chile in the first game, the Australians were left lamenting the first 15 minutes of that encounter, which was where they lost it. Bewildered by the occasion, their defensive structure collapsed and Chile were 2-0 up within a quarter of an hour. But Postecoglou was both encouraged and frustrated by the way his side responded, pulling a goal back and coming close to an equaliser. His frustration came from thinking what might have been had they hit the ground running – and that’s something that will be key against the rampant Dutch.
Mohamed Moallim: If a word could describe Oranje's performance against Spain – well, second half at least – then it would be "breathtaking". Not in a million years did anyone see it coming; a win was never outside the realm of possibility, but a 5-1 scoring in favour of Van Gaal's (relatively young/inexperienced) team, impossible to have imagined. It’s a result that has given a new sense of confidence and belief. When putting everything into perspective (the opposition, the setting) it could easily go down as one of the great Dutch displays. If ever there was a reminder to never underestimate Van Gaal.
WHAT THE MANAGER SAYS
Postecoglou on Australia: “If you judge yourself by the way others see you then you are going to have a pretty mundane existence, because all you will be worried about is what other people's opinions are.”
Van Gaal on Netherlands:"If we do not win our next game against Australia we have made no progress, but now we are obviously in a good position".
Tom Smithies: Matthew Leckie. The young winger played easily his best game for Australia in the loss to Chile, characterised by a fearless and direct style that left defenders backpeddling. With the Dutch defence likely to be concentrating on Tim Cahill’s aerial menace, a similar performance by Leckie in Porto Alegre will have scouts even more interested.
Mohamed Moallim: Whatever system the Dutch use, importance will be on supply, Wesley Sneijder's role – playing between the lines, pulling the strings and setting-up the forwards – cannot be stressed enough. Sneijder won his 100th cap in Salvador last Friday but had an average game by his standards. Nonetheless still remains a vital component in Van Gaal's system; despite recently turning 30 and discussing a future coaching role, his powers show no signs of waning
Tom Smithies: Over 2.5 goals in first half at 5.25. Asked in the pre-match press conference whether a defensive strategy was required against the free-scoring Dutch, Ange Postecoglou said simply: “That’s not why we came to the World Cup.” Australia will bid to take the attack to Holland, believing them vulnerable in defence. And with Van Persie, Sneijder and Robben leading the charge at the other end, there could be goals aplenty.
Mohamed Moallim: From facing the highest ranked team in the competition to the lowest, Australia will provide a different test to Spain but will be treated as the same, this game could see the Dutch carry out Van Gaal's greatest obsession: continuous circulation of the ball, expect them to dominate over 59.5% of possession at 1.80.
Tom Smithies: Netherlands 3-1 Australia at odds of 11.00
Mohamed Moallim: Australia 0-2 Netherlands at odds of 5.80
Bet on Group B now.