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Powerful titans will clash twice in the quarterfinals, with this matchup being perhaps the most interesting. Brazil is the undisputed king of the World Cup. They have won it five times and lost in the finals twice more, and and are an obvious and serious threat to win it all every time the tournament takes place. Netherlands can't nearly match up to that impressive record, but they have finished second twice and fourth once, and 1938 was the last time they qualified for the World Cup without advancing beyond the first round. They are an elite squad - though they have a bad habit of underachieving when things really heat up.
The best part of a game like this in a tournament like this is simple - both of these teams are good enough to advance, but only one can.
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This (hopefully) epic contest takes place Friday, July 2 at 10 am ET in Port Elizabeth. Neither team has played in this venue before, so both sides will be on equal footing.
Netherlands come into this game as one of only two teams in the tournament to have won all four games that they have played. Though you can never discount a team that keeps winning, even the most avid fan of the team would have to admit that they have been blessed with a reasonably easy path to this point.
Group E proved to be easy for them - Denmark wasn't in form, Japan just doesn't have the depth to contend with top teams, and Cameroon was one of the bigger disappointments in the tournament. They also got a gift in the Round of 16 - Italy's failure to advance out of the group meant that an outmatched Slovakia team was the opponent for the Dutch. The Dutch haven't exactly had to run the gauntlet, but then they still deserve credit for taking advantage of their opportunity - something that can't be said for Italy or France.
The knock against Netherlands is one that is probably inevitable given the path they have faced - they haven't always looked sharp and motivated. Injuries were a concern early on, and so was a lack of a killer instinct. They won their games, but could have won them much more impressively if they had wanted to. There were clear signs of improvement in the first elimination game, though, so it's probably not necessary to be too concerned. The Dutch certainly know what it takes to win - they have now won 22 straight international games.
Brazil has been somewhat more tested than the Dutch, and they have come through it looking more impressive. They have played only one game that was a challenge faced at full throttle - against ivory Coast - and they couldn't have looked better in winning it. Beyond that every one of their games has had an issue to consider - North Korea was ridiculously outmatched in the opener, the game against Portugal was essentially meaningless and both teams played like they were fully aware of that, and Chile played a strong but totally outclassed game. Despite the lack of real challenges so far, Brazil came into the tournament as one of the top contenders for the title, and everything they have done so far has only improved their chances. This team is ready to win.
Brazil vs. Netherlands World Cup Odds
On the surface it seems like Brazil has a solid edge, and the oddsmakers clearly agree. Brazil is favored at Pick (-250), with Netherlands well behind at Pick (+180). When you factor in the possibility of a draw after 90 minutes and injury time you have Brazil paying even money, with the draw at +230 and a Netherlands win the least likely outcome at +270. The total is set at the standard 2.5, with the ‘under’ favored at -135.
Brazil vs. Netherlands Picks and Predictions
Brazil Wins If: They play their game. It can be easy to overestimate the Brazilians because of their immense reputation, but in this case whatever you can say about them is justified. They are a ridiculously deep team with a more than competent defense, and an explosive offense. The biggest problem with playing against them is that they have the ability to exploit any possible error that the opposing team makes. If an opponent doesn't play perfect soccer then Brazil will make them pay. When Brazil has lost in major tournaments in the past it's because they have lost their focus and tried to do something other than what works best for them. This team hasn't so far showed that they are likely to do that, and if they can avoid it here then they will move on.
Netherlands Wins If: They avoid mistakes and get some breaks. The Dutch are in a tough position - they are going to be effectively playing behind from the start, but they can't afford to take too many gambles or Brazil will make them pay. The Dutch coaching staff will have been working relentlessly on a gameplan since the second this pairing was set, and because of their competence we know it will be a good one. Now it's up to the players - if they can own that plan and enact it precisely then they stand a chance here. Any attempts to get fancy or freestyle likely won't turn out to their advantage.
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