The Netherlands and Chile will fight it out for top spot in Group B and hope they can avoid a fearsome round two assignment against five-time World Cup winners Brazil.
Both teams have won their opening two games, putting them into the last 16 with a maximum six points each.
Brazil are favoured to qualify top in Group A, meaning they will face whoever finishes second in Group B — a match-up neither the Netherlands nor Chile will relish.
But with the outcome of Group A, where Brazil, Mexico and Croatia are separated by just one point, far from clear, Group B’s winners could still end up facing the hosts.
It is a complicating factor that neither the Netherlands nor Chile will want to dwell on before Monday’s game at Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo.
The Dutch may find themselves against an under-strength Chile after Juventus star Arturo Vidal and Internacional’s Charles Aranguiz both skipped training on Friday.
Both Aranguiz and Vidal, who is on a yellow card, came off injured during the 2-0 win over Spain.
But Vidal said he had no concerns about picking up a second yellow card which would earn him a one-match ban, ruling him out of Chile’s Round-of-16 game.
“This squad is showing how great it is and that’s why I’m not thinking about that yellow card, nor that I could be suspended,” said Vidal. “I just hope to play and be in the group, that’s the mentality of this group.”
Encouraged Aussies smell Spanish blood
Despite Australia already having been eliminated from the World Cup, their all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill believes Australian football can take a huge step forward with victory over dethroned world champions Spain.
Cahill will miss the match in Curitiba having picked up his second yellow card of the tournament in that match, but has backed his teammates to make history.
“We’ve got one more game to go and it is not about Cahill,” said the New York Red Bulls forward.
“This last game is massive. If we beat Spain it will be one of the biggest moments in Australian history.”
‘Evolving’ Brazil to face eliminated Cameroon
Brazil will look to clinch their berth in the last 16 of the World Cup as they host already-eliminated Cameroon in their final Group A match.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side have beaten Croatia and drawn with Mexico in their two games to date, but both the coach and his players have claimed in recent days that the hosts are ‘evolving’ as the tournament goes along.
Goalkeeper Julio Cesar insisted during the week that the quality of opposition they have come up against so far has helped the Selecao.
“This is a tough group, but that’s great for us,” said Cesar. “We prefer to play against these sides and face these difficulties because it gets you focusing right from the start.”
Meanwhile, Niko Kovac says his Croatia side are facing their own World Cup ‘final’ against Mexico with only a win guaranteeing them a place in the last 16.
“The match against Mexico will be like a final,” said Kovac. “Mexico are strong, but so are we. They play some aggressive football with a lot of pressing. They are strong going forward, but also have some weaknesses in defence.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2014.
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