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Monday, June 28, 2010

HOLLAND vs SLOVAKIA >>> Match Preview

Netherlands go into this second round clash full of confidence, having won all three of their matches at the World Cup so far, scoring four goals and conceding just one, and with star player Arjen Robben recovered from injury. The Bayern Munich forward feared his tournament was over before it had even begun when he picked up a hamstring injury but Robben played for 20 minutes as a substitute against Cameroon and came through unscathed.
The former Real Madrid player is now fighting for a starting place in Bert van Marwijk's side and if he passes a late fitness test he will probably take the place of Rafael Van der Vaart on the left side of Netherlands' attacking triumvirate - the other two being Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt - in support of lone-striker Robin van Persie.

The Dutch are big favourites to win this match but the few people expected Slovakia, playing in the World Cup for the first time as an independent nation, to make it out of a group that included Paraguay and reigning World Champions Italy. Yet the Eastern Europeans did so in style, dumping out Marcello Lippi's Azzurri with a 3-2 victory in their final game.

However, that was only Slovakia's second win in their last seven international matches and their first at the World Cup, with Vladimir Weiss's team drawing their opening match with New Zealand and losing 2-0 to eventual group winners Paraguay. The underdogs will also have to do without suspended veteran defensive midfielder Zdeno Strba, who has played all but three minutes of Slovakia's World Cup campaign thus far, in Durban.

It will be an interesting clash of styles too. While the Dutch like to utilise the wings and stretch the play across the full width of the pitch the Slovakian widemen prefer to drift into the middle and keep the play narrow. With Van Marwijk employing two defensive midfielders ahead of his back four it could get very congested in that area.

Netherlands player in focus: Wesley Sneijder
He is yet to display the form that helped Inter Milan win the UEFA Champions League title this season but you get the feeling it is only a matter of time before he sparks into life. That's not to say the former Ajax star hasn't had an impact, he scored the winner against Japan, but he could do better. With Robben back in the team and the weight of expectation shared, Sneijder's keen eye for a pass and superb shooting ability should make him a key figure against Slovakia.

Slovakia player to watch: Robert Vittek
Having failed to score in nine games during qualifying, Vittek has hit three goals in three games at the World Cup to put him in contention for the Golden Boot. Kamil Kopunek is the only other Slovak to find the back of the net and that could be a problematic if the Dutch do a job on the previously little-known Ankaragucu striker. Can he handle the burden of being the star man?

Key battle: Robin Van Persie v Martin Skrtel
Van Persie bagged four goals in the Oranje's three warm-up games prior to the World Cup and although he has not quite maintained that form, scoring just once, he is the focal point of Netherlands' attack and is capable of either bringing others into play or smashing in a hat-trick himself. Trying to stop the Arsenal striker will be Liverpool centre-back Skrtel. Strong and committed, the defender's physicality has stopped the minnows being rolled over and he will have to be at his best again to keep the Dutch off the scoresheet.

This will be a real test for Slovakia against a Dutch side that is unbeaten in their last 22 internationals and expect to book a place in the quarter-finals. It could, and should, be a step too far for Vladimir Weiss' unfancied side.

Take HOLLAND give 1 goal >>> SLOVAKIA (Main Bet)

Odds Centre >>> www.asianbookie.com

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