The ‘Group of Death’ will come to an intriguing conclusion on Sunday as a powerhouse Netherlands side desperately tries to keep their hopes for advancement alive against Portugal. Entering competition, many pundits knew one prominent soccer nation would be heading home earlier than usual in a tough Group B, though most expected it to be Portugal, with Germany and the Dutch both advancing. In fact, the Netherlands were a common selection to win the entire tournament, possessing the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, and Robin van Persie, a trio that goes unrivalled among the remaining teams in this competition. However, it’s all gone awry for the Dutch, and they’ll look to somehow salvage this tournament having no choice but to secure a two-goal victory versus a capable Portuguese squad.
Netherlands commenced their tournament with a stunning defeat to Denmark. Though they carried the run of play and were clearly the better side, the Dutch couldn’t finish at all in the match. Their hard luck carried over into their second game where they ran into a German side that looks like the early favourites to lift the trophy. The Dutch were fully outclassed and now must win this match by a few goals, while hoping Denmark loses to Germany in order to qualify. The odds are certainly stacked against the Oranje, but if there’s any team that could pull such a remarkable feat off, it’s the Dutch with their riches of talent.
The Portuguese meanwhile began their tournament with an unfortunate 1-0 defeat to Germany. In that game, they were arguably the better side, generating a plethora of chances, and likely deserved a draw. Their positive form carried over into their next match against the Danes, storming out to an early 2-0 lead before coughing it up late, allowing Denmark to tie the game. However, in the 87th minute, key substitute Silvestre Varela fired home a crucial winner for the desperate Portuguese side, giving them hope in their final match against the Dutch. Portugal have proven they can generate offense with the best of them, despite the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo has yet to find the score-sheet. If Portugal are to have any hopes of progressing, they’ll need Ronaldo to stop squandering chances, and bury a key goal to send his side into the finale eight.
Portugal vs Netherlands Betting Odds:
Portugal (+190) / Draw (+250) / Netherlands (+150)
Over 2.5 (-125) / Under 2.5 (+105)
Match Analysis & Pick:
Expect this to be a match loaded with offensive opportunities. The Dutch absolutely must go for the win, and need to do so by a couple of goals as well if they’re to have any chance of progressing. Portugal meanwhile are level on points with Denmark as it currently stands, and with Germany unlikely to go easy on the Danes, the Portuguese should feel confident if they manage a draw against the Dutch.
For the Netherlands, look for a series of changes to the line-up in order to generate more offense. Portugal defended solidly against the Germans, but looked vulnerable on many occasions against an inferior Danish side. If Portugal gives a team as talented as the Netherlands open opportunities, the Dutch could seize their opportunity, and steal a birth to the quarter-finals.
History however will not be on the Dutch side in this clash. Of the past ten meetings between these proud soccer countries, Netherlands have won just once. This is a disturbing trend for a reeling Dutch team that will be looking for at least a two-goal victory. Expect coach Bert van Marjwik to insert Klaas-Jan Huntelaar up front, perhaps alongside Robin van Persie. The two have rarely played at the same time together in a Dutch uniform as it goes against the system van Marjwik preaches, but desperate times do call for desperate measures. Additionally, don’t be surprised if the hard-working Dirk Kuyt enters for the Dutch for Arjen Robben. Though Robben is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest players, his work ethic and antics against Germany came into question, and he could begin on the bench against Portugal. The tension and lack of cohesion in the Dutch camp has reportedly reached a boiling point, and it remains to be seen if they will implode or rally behind it in what could be their final game together.
Expect a free-flowing match filled with passion and desperation from both sides. The Dutch have no choice but to force the issue, and put as many goals into the back of the Portuguese net as they can possibly muster. Look for their new line-up to be more cohesive, and dangerous, but it’s doubtful it will be enough for qualification to the final stages. The hole they’ve dug is quite deep, and the most plausible result from this match is the Dutch heading home a disgraced side.
Portugal’s Ronaldo has certainly been off-form in his first two fixtures, but expect the offensive nature of this match to bust him out of his slump. Predicting a winner a match of this nature is difficult, but it would be stunning if this game didn’t produce some prime goal-scoring opportunities. Both sides have little choice but to produce goals, with the Dutch dictating the tempo, and the Portuguese being forced to keep up with the pace. Moreover, both teams are loaded with dangerous finishers, and though they’ve been lacklustre of late, expect the group finale to bring out the best in the all-world talents both sides’ possess. Look for lots of chances, lots of goals, and with both teams going for the win, the over 2.5 seems like solid value in what has to be a wide-open affair