Match Preview: Netherlands vs Russia

The Netherlands lit up the group stages but Russia were not far behind with their classy win over Sweden, what will the quarter final produce?

A week ago the Dutch looked odds-on to advance to the last four but, though they remain favourites, Russia’s sparkling 2-0 victory over Sweden in Innsbruck on Wednesday has altered the balance.

While the Dutch have Ruud van Nistelrooy in attack, Russia can call on the revitalised Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Wesley Sneijder will be up against the equally skilful Andrei Arshavin in the middle of the field while on the wing the Dutch have Arjen Robben and Russia counter with versatile midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov.

But Dutch coach Marco van Basten is keen to learn the lessons from Spain’s 4-1 rout of Russia early in the tournament.

“We have to see what the Spanish did against them and take our lessons from that,” he said.

Many of the Dutch first choice players have had a week to rest and prepare after Van Basten used mostly reserves in the final group game against Romania.

He is likely to start with the team that came out of the dressing room for the second half of the 4-1 romp over France last Friday, with Robben starting and Orlando Engelaar dropping to the bench.

Robben, who missed the opening match against Italy through injury, did well after coming on for Engelaar against Les Bleus and was a starter against Romania.

However, while Robben’s attacking talents are undoubted he and Dirk Kuyt must show they can cope defensively with the free-running Yuri Zhirkov and Alexander Anyukov.

Russia’s players will have had less than three full days to recover from the Sweden game and that could prove a key factor.

They have no major injury worries and Arshavin should be fresh having played only 90 minutes in the tournament.

His return from suspension was the catalyst in transforming Russia into a slick-passing team that could have been modelled on the Dutch.

With Dutchman Guus Hiddink in charge that should not come as too much of a surprise.

The well-travelled coach has forged his reputation from building hard-working sides where players perform above their ability but in this group of Russians he recognises he has some top quality raw material.

“The players have proved at this tournament they can keep playing this type of football,” he said.

“The way we play we get respect, we like to play the way football should be played and I think the Netherlands do the same.”

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