A pre-match overview does not get more fundamental than this. The third game in the round of 16 pits the Netherlands, the World Cup's finest procurer of goals, against Mexico, tied with Costa Rica as the best preventer.
Guillermo Ochoa of Mexico, whose goalkeeping at the tournament has been second to nil, says the Dutch are operating with computer efficiency. True, but computers do crash. Ochoa and his mates can make it happen by carrying over their defensive intensity from group play, when just one goal was granted.
Problem is, focusing on one Dutchman would constitute a dicey strategy. Equally dangerous Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie have three goals apiece, even though the latter sat out the most recent game as penance for yellow card violations.
The Netherlands' 5-3-2 formation suggests a defensive lean, but the fullbacks frequently come forward on counterattacks. The design has generated 10 goals.
Waiting on the Dutch will be Rafael Marquez, 35, who has shed some speed (and his trademark ponytail) but not the savvy that could place him on the all-tournament team at centerback.
Mexico has mutated from the team that barely emerged from qualifying. El Tri produced fewer wins than it has colors, going 2-5-3 while changing coaches three times along the way. They needed some help from a sworn soccer enemy at the end.
Had the U.S. not scored during stoppage time against Panama in a game it did not need, Mexico would have been on the outside, looking in at the Cup.
The latest coach, excitable Miguel Herrera, has reshaped the team to his liking -- most boldly by dropping the venerable Javier Hernandez, Van Persie's scoring sidekick with Manchester United, to a reserve role.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times