The famously argumentative Dutch appear finally to have found some harmony, though that clearly does not extend to their manager. Louis van Gaal, who was unhappy about a low dug-out before their last game with Australia, yesterday piled into Fifa. He accused the governing body of dirty "tricks" and a lack of "fair play" by allowing Brazil to play after his own team’s potentially absorbing Group B finale against Chile today.
The host nation wrap up their group against Cameroon four hours after the Dutch. Brazil have the advantage of knowing the identity of their likely second-round foes by the time they face the Africans.
"Fifa, for every match, have this advertisement around fair play," Van Gaal said. "Fifa plays these tricks, it’s not a good thing. It’s not fair play.
"We’re going to focus on a victory against Chile and I don’t think that will be affected by the fact Brazil will play after us. I am just assuming they (Brazil) will do their sporting duty. Why on earth are they (Fifa) doing that (with the fixture schedule)? That is the question."
The serious business of this tournament is upon us. Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has been saying for months that Chile, rather than Holland, is the country he wishes to avoid in the second round but the Dutch will certainly not fancy meeting the hosts. Brazil have been poor in
their first two games — far less impressive than Chile or Holland — but they will be keyed up. The alternative for the Dutch or Chileans is a match with Mexico or Croatia in Fortaleza on Sunday.
Chile and Hollandcould well play out the best game of a fine group stage today. The Dutch have scored eight goals so far and have proven themselves masters of the counter-attack, happy to sit back and soak up pressure before hitting teams on the break, with Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie leading the charge.
Van Persie has scored three goals but the Manchester United striker is suspended today having been booked twice. Van Gaal could replace him with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but in training in the past few days he has changed from his new 5-3-2 system to a 4-3-3. Robben has lined up on the right, Dynamo Kiev striker Jeremain Lens through the middle and Dirk Kuyt, the 33-year-old once of Liverpool, on the left.
If the Dutch sit back and wait to break, Chile will be more than happy to take the game to them. They ran through Spain in last Wednesday’s 2-0 win, shocking them with their intense pressing, athleticism and incisive one-touch attacking. Eduardo Vargas’s opening goal was one of the moves of the tournament.
Good as Holland have been going forward, they are vulnerable at the back. Centre-backs Ron Vlaar and Stefan de Vrij are not world-beaters and Bruno Martins Indi is struggling with an injury. If Vargas, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal play as well as they did against Spain, Chile could score the goals to top the group, forcing the Dutch to face Brazil.
Van Gaal’s comments will create an absorbing lead-in to that fixture if he is lumbered with facing the hosts. He will not be short of a response.