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International Friendly Preview: Portugal v Netherlands
Aug 12, 2013 9:04 PM GMT
Portugal and the Netherlands meet on Wednesday with both teams looking for momentum ahead of their next FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Paulo Bento's Portugal have been far from impressive in qualifying, and head their group by just two points, having played two more games than closest challengers, Russia.
The Netherlands, by contrast, have yet to lose a game in qualifying and head into the clash at Estadio Do Algarve, Faro seven points clear of Hungary at the top of their group.
Both teams can boast a plethora of big names, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho and Pepe all included in the Portugal squad, while Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart are all set to feature for Louis van Gaal's side.
There is nothing to separate the sides on recent form, Van Gaal's men have not lost a game since falling 4-2 to Belgium in August 2012, while Portugal's 3-2 loss to Ecudaor in February marks the last time they tasted defeat.
The last competitive meeting between the two sides - which took place at UEFA Euro 2012 - ended in a 2-1 Portugal win as they eventually progressed to the semi-finals, with the Netherlands sent home in the group stage after failing to earn a single point.
Defence has been the key behind the Netherlands' recent turnaround, the Dutch have conceded only three goals in their last 10 outings, but they do face an imposing challenge in the form of Ronaldo, who is the undoubted focal point of the Portugal attack.
The Real Madrid man netted in the win over Croatia in June, and has 39 goals in 104 appearances in his senior international career.
Still, while Ronaldo provides a significant threat going forward, the Portuguese backline will need to be wary of Dutch captain Van Persie, who has five goals in qualification.
The Manchester United striker is just five behind Patrick Kluivert's all-time national record of 40 goals, and Bento's men will have to prevent him from adding to that tally if they are to earn a morale-boosting win.