FIFA World Cup Preview: Netherlands v Mexico
By Football News
The Netherlands coasted into the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup in ominous fashion but Mexico are plotting to halt their charge on Sunday.
Louis van Gaal's side made light work of topping Group B - billed as the 'group of death' - ahead of Chile, as world champions Spain and Australia crashed out.
The Netherlands were beaten by Spain in the World Cup final in South Africa four years ago, but have looked more than capable of putting that disappointment behind them in Brazil.
Van Gaal's men were the leading scorers in the group stage, registering 10 goals as they won all three of their matches.
A 5-1 hammering of Spain provided the undoubted highlight, and the Dutch will start as favourites to see off Mexico in Fortaleza.
Mexico displayed defensive strength to finish second behind Brazil in Group A, conceding just one goal in three matches and holding the hosts to a goalless draw.
However, their resilience is set to be put to the test by in-form Netherlands forwards Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, who have scored three goals apiece so far.
Van Persie will return from suspension to lead the line this weekend, a boost to a Dutch side that has looked dangerous on the break and ruthless in the final third.
Although Van Gaal's men have impressed, appearing easier on the eye than the efficient team Bert van Marwijk guided to the final four years ago, Mexico remain confident of reaching a World Cup quarter-final on foreign soil for the first time.
Remarkably, Mexico have been knocked out at the last-16 stage in the last five World Cups.
Yet midfielder Andres Guardado.has warned the Netherlands that he and his team-mates will not just be there to make up the numbers.
He told FIFA.com: "Yes, it's going to be a tough match,”
"We've already played three difficult games, particularly against Brazil, another one of the favourites.
"But we're not going to lower our expectations – we're still hoping to make Mexican football history.
“We're honestly not afraid of anything, we're happy to take on anyone and fully expect to come away with the win,”
"We're going to go toe-to-toe (with the Netherlands), we're going to make their life difficult and prove to them that Mexico are no pushovers. We'll be gunning for a place in the next round, that's what we all really want."