Irresistible Dutch face Mexican heat

Last Updated 28 June 2014, 20:22 IST

Return of striker Robin van Persie adds to the Netherlands’ firepower against the Central Americans

Robin van Persie returns to the Dutch attack to face Mexico in the second round of the World Cup on Sunday while Mexican defender Hector Moreno will lock horns with his former mentor Louis van Gaal.

Van Persie was suspended for the Netherlands’ 2-0 defeat of Chile in their final group match but will be back to partner Arjen Robben in the tournament’s deadliest attacking duo. The pair scored three each during the group stage as the Dutch romped into the last 16 with three victories and 10 goals, more than any other team at the World Cup.

That rich vein of form makes them favourites against the Mexicans but their previous clashes have been remarkably even. In six meetings, the Dutch have won three and the Mexicans two. Of the 22 goals in those matches -- an average of nearly four a game -- both sides scored 11, and their only previous meeting at the World Cup, in 1998, ended in a 2-2 draw.  

But this time, Netherlands have shown impressive form from the beginning and rarely let the momentum slip after defeating defending champions Spain.

Big feat

Van Persie's return means Dirk Kuyt is likely to be relegated to the bench after starting against Chile, but if he does play, either from the outset or as a substitute, the 33-year-old will win his 100th international cap.

At the other end of the age spectrum, 20-year-old forward Memphis Depay is also likely to start on the bench despite scoring twice in his two appearances. “I must be realistic,” he told reporters at the Dutch training camp.

“With incredible players like Robben and Van Persie, it's logical that I sit on the bench. If you see what Robben can do with dribbling the ball it's unbelievable.” 

Impressive show

The Mexicans are largely injury free and were impressive in the group stage, beating Croatia and Cameroon and holding Brazil to a goalless draw in Fortaleza's Castelao arena, the setting for Sunday's showdown against the Netherlands. Mexico have only made itpast the round of 16 twice, both the times when it was the host country of the mega event in 1970 and 1986. 

Their defender Moreno played under Van Gaal at Dutch side AZ Alkmaar and knows a thing or two about the talent in the Netherlands squad. 

“They were young guys like me and they were just starting their careers when I was there,” said Moreno, who now plays his club football at Espanyol in Spain. 

“They've grown up under the guidance of Van Gaal. With the players they have up front it's going to be a very difficult match.” Moreno said he hoped to hug the Dutch coach twice on Sunday -- once before kickoff as a gesture of friendship and again after the final whistle to commiserate him in defeat. The winners will face either Costa Rica or Greece in the quarterfinals.

(Published 28 June 2014, 20:21 IST)

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