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Dutch wary of Socceroos ambush


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The Netherlands are bracing for an Australian ambush despite the Socceroos losing foot soldier Mark Milligan to injury for their World Cup battle.

Milligan’s hamstring strain has sidelined him from a second group match in Porto Alegre fixture on Wednesday (Thursday AEST) that is making the highly-fancied Dutch a little nervous.

As Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal batted away numerous questions about winning the World Cup in the wake of his team’s defeat of champions Spain, his star midfielder Wesley Sneijder insisted Australia could prove more difficult to topple than Spain.

“It’s perfectly possible,” Sneijder told reporters on Tuesday.

“We have never won against Australia. We have played them three times and we didn’t win so it will be a difficult match.

“After the 5-1 victory (against Spain) everybody will have taken a light view of this. But we will not.”

Australian coach Ange Postecoglou was forced into another reshuffle after Milligan reported a hamstring tightness.

Postecoglou, who declined to nominate Milligan’s replacement, must also cover injured defender Ivan Franjic, who has returned home with a torn hamstring.

Despite the double blows, Postecoglou promised his rank underdogs won’t adopt defensive tactics to try and stifle the rampant Dutch, led by their twin strike force of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben who both bagged doubles against Spain.

“That is not why we came to the World Cup,” Postecoglou declared on Tuesday.

“We know we’ll have to be very strong defensively because the Dutch are very dangerous going forward and they proved that against Spain.

“The other side of that is, if we just try to defend for 90 minutes there is only going to be one result and that won’t be in our favour.

“It’s just as important that we’re dangerous when we have the ball, and I think we can be.”

His Dutch counterpart van Gaal believed Postecoglou wasn’t bluffing.

“I do not expect Australia to have a defensive game,” van Gaal told reporters.

“I also expect Australia to play an offensive game because, indeed, their national coach is basing himself on this.

“He should line up (Tim) Cahill in such a game while he is one of the unique qualities of the Australian team.

“So I do think that they will be playing a much more offensive game than anybody thinks.”

Both coaches welcomed the cooler climes of Porto Alegre, with a forecast maximum temperature of 15 degrees on match day.

“With the cooler conditions you can expect a quicker tempo and maybe for the game to be a little more compact,” Postecoglou said.

“We know both teams like to play attacking football. The Dutch do, and that is certainly our intent.”

Captain Mile Jedinak said the Socceroos were prepared for a rapid-fire encounter, confident the jitters that cruelled Australia in their 3-1 opening loss to Chile had dissolved.

“We did address it after the game – obviously it was too late then,” Jedinak said.

“But a lot of players were playing in their first World Cup, the biggest game of their careers.

“That was the unfortunate thing that happened in that game.

“But the key part in that was the response, what you saw after that first 20 minutes. And I know that will drive the boys going forward.”

In World Cup action this morning, Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa produced an inspired performance as Mexico held World Cup hosts Brazil to a frustrating 0-0 draw in Group A in Fortaleza.

Ochoa twice made decisive interventions to deny Neymar before coming up with a stunning save to keep out a Thiago Silva header from point-blank range four minutes from the end of a scrappy encounter in the steaming heat of the Castelao Stadium.

Always eager to attack themselves, Mexico were well worthy of a draw which leaves both sides level on four points in the group and, even with Croatia and Cameroon set to meet each other in Manaus on Wednesday (Thursday AEST), ensured that the two places up for grabs in the last 16 will not be decided until the final round of games on June 23.

“Playing against the favourites, on their home ground, the team showed that they can compete against absolutely anyone,” said proud Mexico coach Miguel Herrera.

“In my memory I can’t remember a goalkeeper performing like that in a World Cup,” he added of Ochoa’s display.

The enormity of the occasion clearly got to some of the Brazil players, with Neymar breaking down in tears at the end of a rousing version of the national anthem, and the home side struggled to settle in the early stages of the match.

Passes were wayward and challenges were mistimed as the nervous energy of the crowd inside the 60,342-capacity stadium made for a frantic start.

Indeed, Mexico, backed by a colourful and vociferous support of their own, initially looked the better team and had the first real chance, a rising strike from just outside the area by Hector Herrera that was turned over the bar by Julio Cesar in the home goal, although no corner was given.

While Mexico were unchanged from their 1-0 victory against Cameroon, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari made one alteration from the side that defeated Croatia 3-1 in their opening game in Sao Paulo, with Ramires replacing Hulk, who failed to fully shake off a niggling hamstring problem in time to start.

That meant Oscar was moved from the right flank, where he had been outstanding against Croatia, to the left.

But it was from the right that the home side created their first opening, a cross from Dani Alves being headed goalwards by Neymar at the back post, only for Ochoa to make a superb save flying low to his right.

Ochoa also did well to deny Paulinho after Silva had chested a Neymar free-kick into the Tottenham Hotspur player’s path, but otherwise the Mexican keeper was not seriously tested in a first period in which Brazil failed to stamp their authority on proceedings.

The Mexican threat remained, and both Vazquez and Hector Herrera shot narrowly over, but the biggest problem for Brazil remained Ochoa.

He again came to his team’s rescue in the 69th minute, producing another decisive stop to deny Neymar, who had controlled the ball on his chest before volleying goalward.

But Ochoa remained the hero to the last, brilliantly intervening after Brazil captain Silva, unmarked six yards out, connected with Neymar’s free-kick delivery from the left.

The result left Scolari less than impressed with Brazil’s performance.

“Mexico had great physical strength and ball work, but we had chances in both halves,” he said.

“In the end, 0-0 is not a good result, but it mirrors what the game was. The team has been good, but we are also facing selections of good quality.

“It is not a good result but you have to respect your opponents, who are very good.”


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