After the Netherlands’ demolition of holders Spain in their opening World Cup match, Australia will have to plug the dyke to stop a flood of goals from the Oranje in their second Group E game in Porto Alegre on Wednesday.
The Dutch stunned the world with their 5-1 victory over a hapless Spain, highlighted by a sensational headed goal by Robin Van Persie and a swaggering, two-goal display from Arjen Robben.
With the 30-year-old Robben playing like a man on a mission to prove himself one of the stars of the tournament and Van Persie, the same age and also on fire, the Dutch are set to give the Socceroos defence a tough afternoon.
“It was an amazing start for our World Cup, and I think we’ve made a lot of people very happy, Van Persie told Fifa media. “Now the focus is on Australia, and I think that will be completely different to the game against Spain.
“Australia have a very different style and I think we are going to have to adjust our own game to beat them. It’s an interesting process, having to adjust your game every time.”
A victory would leave the three-time World Cup runners-up poised to reach the last 16.
Since the humiliation of Spain, there has been much talk of a return to the Total Football of the great Dutch teams of the past, but this is still an uncompromising side and Wednesday’s match could be a crunching encounter.
Australia must pick themselves up from a 3-1 defeat by a tough and talented Chile side. Still, Aussie bravura was on show ahead of Wednesday.
“We just need to be confident and show we can play football like we did for 70 minutes (against Chile),” striker Matthew Leckie told reporters.
“Chile is a world-class team and they couldn’t handle us at times. If we do the things we can do good or great it doesn’t matter what team it is, they’re going to have problems.”
Coach Ange Postecoglou must, however, do without defender Ivan Franjic, who was ruled out of the tournament with a torn hamstring. With no other right-side defender to call on, his replacement will be Ryan McGowan, who came on for Franjic in Cuiaba.
Though soccer in Australia lags behind cricket, rugby and Australian rules football in popularity, this is the Socceroos third consecutive World Cup appearance and the team, still rebuilding with the passing of the “Golden Generation,” will not surrender easily.
In fact Australia have never lost against the Netherlands yet. In previous meetings, they have drawn twice and Australia grabbed a 2-1 win in Eindhoven in 2008.
They might also take heart from their country’s performance in the hockey World Cup, which Australia won on Sunday with a 6-1 victory over the Netherlands. But that could just be clutching at straws.