World Cup Preview from The Sports Network|
Monday, June 28, 2010
(All times Eastern)
Netherlands (3-0-0) vs. Slovakia (1-1-1), 10 a.m.
Durban, South Africa (Sports Network) - The Netherlands had no real trouble in
finishing on top of Group E as the Dutch won all three of their group-stage
matches, while the team's opponents at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Monday in
their FIFA World Cup round of 16 match, Slovakia, had a bit of a different
Slovakia is competing in its first-ever World Cup as an independent nation,
but its 1-1 draw with New Zealand to open the tournament was not exactly what
it had in mind.
That was followed by a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Paraguay, leaving Slovakia
on the brink of elimination.
But manager Vladimir Weiss saw his team respond in a big way, beating
defending champions Italy, 3-2, to eliminate the Azzurri and book themselves a
place in the next round.
"This is a fantastic day for Slovakia and the second greatest day of my life
after the birth of my son," the manager said. "We were under pressure before
we took on the reigning champions, but we prepared for this match perfectly.
I'm proud of my players. They put in a performance of the very highest level
and played a fantastic game."
Slovakia reaching the knockout round in its first World Cup is a great
achievement, while the Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk was not too pleased with
his team's 2-1 win over Cameroon despite completing a perfect group stage.
"Winning three times in a row at a World Cup obviously looks good at first
sight, but I'm not really satisfied with our performance today," Van Marwijk
said after the Cameroon match. "We were more in control in the other group
games, but we could easily have lost today."
The difference in the tone of both managers says a lot, because while Slovakia
is just happy to be in the next round, the job is just beginning for a Dutch
side that was expected to win all three of group matches.
The Oranje failed to really exhibit its trademark free-flowing style in the
group stage, but they also were playing without star winger Arjen Robben, who
only made a 20-minute substitute appearance in the last match.
Robben sat out the first two games with a hamstring injury, but his return to
the team should provide a spark to an attack that has failed to hit its stride
The Bayern Munich standout is also not taking anything for granted against the
"Slovakia have showed they deserve to be taken seriously," Robben said. "There
are no smaller nations any more, so we'll have to focus hard on our
06/27 12:27:17 ET