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Old July 1, 2010, 11:04 PM
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al-Sagar al-Sagar is offline
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Default Netherlands v Brazil

Netherlands take on the favourites

Brazil and Netherlands supplied the great World Cup teams of the 70s but, while Brazil clinched their third world title at the start of the decade, Netherlands had to settle for two runners-up spots in the tournaments that followed.

Even with Pele, Garrincha, Jairzinho and co long gone, Brazil have since added two more World Cups to their collection, but the Dutch have not since played in a final.

If Bert van Marwijk's side are to finally end their wait for the trophy, they must overcome Dunga's Brazil, a side marrying skill with hard work and who look justified as the favourites.

Netherlands will need to improve on their most recent showings - a tepid dead rubber against Cameroon and a defensively unconvincing 2-1 win over Slovakia - but they have an attack capable of hurting any side. Arjen Robben, who nearly missed out on the tournament through injury, has been exceptional in his limited playing time to date, while Wesley Sneijder is excelling after a hugely successful year with Inter Milan. Dirk Kuyt has also made a positive contribution and, at his best, Robin van Persie is one of the game's leading strikers. From the bench, Eljero Elia offers another potent threat.

Brazil are perhaps at their best against attacking sides but, having again been accused of being one-dimensional after the 2-1 win over North Korea, they have since demonstrated greater adaptability. Against Chile, Juan thumped home a header from a set-piece before Luis Fabiano and Robinho completed the scoring in more traditional fashion. Regardless of such improvements, though, this quarter-final looks like a game that will suit them.

"We know there is always this expectation that Brazil will be the winners but being the favourite does not allow you to win the World Cup,"Dunga said. "Some people doubted that we would perform but as we go along that confidence is growing and growing and we hope to make it to the final."

Netherlands player to watch: Wesley Sneijder.
The creative heart of the Dutch team, Sneijder has shown exceptional craft and vision in supplying Arjen Robben in the last two matches. He enjoyed a hugely successful campaign at club level and he appears desperate to prove a point following his release from Real Madrid last summer.

Brazil player to watch: Robinho. Having been selected in a weakened Manchester City side against Scunthorpe at Glanford Park in January, few could have predicted Robinho's turnaround in fortunes. A loan spell at Santos provided him with regular football and restored his confidence, and he is again starting to look like the player who cost £32.5 million two years ago. His man-of-the-match performance against Chile was no flash in the pan, and he is likely to test the Dutch defence to its limits.

Key battle: Arjen Robben v Michel Bastos. Robben had looked extremely doubtful for the finals after suffering a hamstring injury in a warm-up game, but he was superb when he returned in the final group game against Cameroon and continued to shine against Slovakia. Against Michel Bastos, who plays as an attacking midfielder for Lyon, he will be confident of getting in behind the defence and causing endless problems.

Trivia: Falcons are used at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to keep pigeons and small animals away.

Stats: Netherlands and Brazil have met three times in the World Cup, with one win apiece and one draw.

Odds:
Netherlands (4.00), the draw (3.30) and Brazil (2.00) with Bet365. A 1-0 win for Netherlands will give you odds of 10.00.

Prediction: While Netherlands look very capable of scoring goals, their defence is a concern and Dunga's Brazil tend to be at their best when soaking up pressure and breaking quickly. While it should be a hard-fought contest, Brazil look by far the most likely to progress.
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