PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — The key question for most ahead of Netherlands' second World Cup match is whether Robin Van Persie and co. can possibly top their stunning opening performance.
The opponents this time is Australia, a much easier prospect than defending champion Spain, which it thrashed 5-1. Van Persie set the tournament alight with a memorable, diving header.
The Dutch had modest expectations going into the World Cup. Their win against Spain has changed that.
"After such a performance, the dynamics have naturally changed. However, as a country, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. We have to stay realistic," van Persie said. "We achieved an impressive result but we have a long way to go to win this tournament. This is my fifth (major) tournament and I know how these things work: the euphoria vanishes just as quickly as it appears."
The Dutch know that a win would leave them well-poised to top Group B — an especially prized spot given that the runners-up in the section can reasonably be expected to face host Brazil in the second round. It would almost certainly condemn Australia's team of mostly newcomers to an early exit, in line with the gloomy pre-tournament predictions.
Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal confirmed his reputation as a master tactician against Spain, playing five defenders and making the most of counter-attacking opportunities. Van Gaal hinted he might revert to the traditional Dutch 4-3-3 system against Australia.
For Australia to stand a chance on Wednesday afternoon in the southern city of Porto Alegre, the Socceroos' all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill will need to again be at the peak of his game.
Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong, who knows Cahill from when both played in the Premier League, said the New York Red Bulls' striker was one of the best headers of the ball in the game. The 34-year-old Cahill's header provided Australia's only goal in the 3-1 loss to Chile.
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