PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — After hammering Spain 5-1 in their World Cup opener, the Netherlands is hungry for more.
“We have three points and we want six more,” Wesley Sneijder said after practice on the eve of Wednesday’s Group B match against Australia.
Sneijder’s comment oozed an understandable confidence after his team’s demolition of the reigning world and European champions. But Sneijder made it clear that his teammates would not underestimate the Socceroos. Netherlands has not beaten Australia in their only three meetings.
“Certainly after a 5-1 win like that the outside world might think it will be easy, but we don’t,” Sneijder said, in an attempt to dampen the euphoria after the Dutch victory.
“We know what we have to do.”
Coach Louis van Gaal has a fully-fit squad for the Group B match, after defenders Ron Vlaar and Daley Blind recovered from minor knocks.
The question is whether he will need all his defenders or play a four-man defense to give him more attacking impetus.
Australia can’t just sit back against the Dutch — it desperately needs a win to get its World Cup back on track after losing its opening match 3-1 to Chile.
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou hinted earlier in the day that his side will not only defend in an attempt to shut down Dutch forwards Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
“It will be a challenge for us to stop their attacking game, but the other side of that is: if we just try and defend for 90 minutes there will be only one result — and it won’t be in our favor,” Postecoglou said.
Van Gaal was not saying how exactly the Dutch plan to break down Australia — stick to the winning 5-3-2 formula he adopted to such breathtaking effect against attack-minded Spain, or revert to the traditional 4-3-3 system that was the foundation of Dutch “total football” in years gone by.
“If Australia plays very defensively then you can press forward better with 1-4-3-3,” Van Gaal said “But it doesn’t always produce enough, that’s why it’s a very difficult question.”
Van Gaal said he and his players know what system the team will play Wednesday, but they were keeping it to themselves.
He said he expects Postecoglou to use all his attacking options — most notably Tim Cahill, whose powerful header brought Australia back into the match against Chile after a disastrous start in which his team conceded two early goals.
“I expect an attacking Australia because the coach uses the resources at his disposal,” Van Gaal said. “If you play defensively, you don’t put Cahill in the field.”
Associated Press reporter Chris Brummit contributed to this report.
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