Tuesday, April 16, 2024

It’s showtime!


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PORT ELIZABETH – Not much hype is required when the five-time champions face the country that created “total football” in the World Cup quarter-finals.Still, Brazil coach Dunga made a point of emphasising just how spectacular today’s match against the Netherlands might be.Dunga, who was captain on the Brazil side that beat the Netherlands in 1994 and 1998, said yesterday that he would pay to watch the game if he didn’t have a free pass for the sideline.“Both sides play an attacking game, both feature very technical players, both know how to dribble and take risks, and both want to score,” the former midfielder said. “So you can always expect a great football game.“We all know that in the knockout stage all the games are open. You can’t play defensively because all the players on the pitch are experts.”The winners will face either Uruguay or Ghana in the semis.Two-time runners-up but never World Cup champions, the Netherlands enter on a team-record 23-match unbeaten streak. The Dutch feature some of Europe’s top stars in Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder, Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben, and Arsenal striker Robin van Persie.The Netherlands swept through the group stage with three victories, and Robben and Sneijder found the target in a 2-1 win over Slovakia in the round of 16.Brazil were also solid in the group stage, beating North Korea and Ivory Coast before a scoreless draw with Portugal, then restored their “beautiful game” in a 3-0 win over Chile in the second round.While he still hasn’t scored, playmaker Kaka is returning to form and his pinpoint passes have helped Luis Fabiano rekindle his scoring touch. Also, speedy forward Robinho has given the Selecao an added weapon again.Even with so many crafty players on the pitch at once, Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk doesn’t agree with Dunga’s prediction, practically pronouncing the death of “total football” – the famous Dutch “clockwork orange” attacking style of quick passing and running off the ball.The Dutch game reached its apex in the 1970s when the Netherlands reached consecutive World Cup finals – losing to Germany and Argentina in 1974 and 1978, respectively.“It was ‘total football’, and I also remember Brazil’s samba football, but sport changes and football changes also,” Van Marwijk said. “It has to do with the fact [that] everybody is getting fitter, better organised, so if you play as you did in former times I think it would be very difficult to win the World Cup.”Dunga must make do without suspended midfielder Ramires, while injuries to Elano, Felipe Melo and Julio Baptista leave the coach with few options in midfield. Elano is definitely out because of a bruised bone in his right ankle, while Melo, and Baptista are doubtful.Netherlands midfielder Rafael van der Vaart has returned to full training following a left calf injury and Van Marwijk declared him fully fit. But it remains unclear if Van Marwijk will put Van der Vaart back in the starting line-up after Robben returned against Slovakia and scored in his first start. (AP)

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