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Page last updated at 05:56 GMT, Thursday, 1 July 2010 06:56 UK

Can Dutch spring a surprise?

Dutch graphic

By Clarence Seedorf
Dutch international midfielder and BBC pundit

With four wins out of four and a place in the quarter-finals, the Netherlands have got maximum results from minimum effort at this World Cup so far.

They have not had to do anything special yet but they will have to raise their game if they are to beat Brazil in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

The numbers are really impressive for the Dutch. They have won all eight of their matches in 2010 and have conceded only two goals in South Africa, both of them penalties.

To be a threat against Brazil, the likes of Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie will have to be at their best while the defence will have to cope with players of the calibre of Luis Fabiano, Robinho and Kaka

That would suggest they are a team in form but, having watched all their games in this tournament, I don't think they have actually been playing that well. They have done exactly what they have needed to, nothing more.

That was exactly what we saw against Slovakia in their last game. Defensively, Bert van Marwijk's side did its job while they created chances going forward, too.

Van Marwijk employs the same formation - 4-2-3-1 - as Brazil. It is a system we started using in the last games I played for the Netherlands in 2008 and it allows him to use more of his quality players, like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie.

But generally it is not the system that creates winning teams. It is the players who make it work.

It was great to see Robben back fit and starting the Slovakia game after his hamstring injury. Sneijder showed what he is capable of, too, with his pass that led to the first goal, which Robben scored.

I want to see those two - and the likes of Van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart - at the top of their game. Maybe a quality side like Brazil will bring the best out of them.


Slovakia created some chances but did not have the quality to take them. I would expect Brazil, with all the talent they have in their team, to be a different proposition.

If the Dutch can keep scoring, they will make life difficult for anyone but it will be fatal if they allow Brazil the kind of openings that Slovakia wasted.

To be a threat against Brazil, the likes of Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie will have to be at their best while the defence will have to cope with players of the calibre of Luis Fabiano, Robinho and Kaka.

I would not rule out a Dutch win but those two factors will decide whether their tournament finishes here or they reach the semi-finals.

The media back in the Netherlands have been critical of the national team's perceived lack of flair but they will not be writing about that if the players come home with the World Cup.

In 1988, the great Dutch team that won the European Championship did not play the best football in the tournament, apart from perhaps the semi-final against Germany. But the team playing the nicest way does not always win. That goes for the World Cup, too.

Five stars in the Brazil shirt
Five stars signify five World Cup triumphs for the Brazilians

Brazil have got five stars on their shirt for a reason. They have won the tournament five times. They know what it takes to win.

And they have beaten the Netherlands on the two most recent occasions the countries have met at the World Cup.

Branco got their winner in a 3-2 victory in the 1994 quarter-finals in the United States. In 1998 in France, I was in the Dutch team that was beaten on penalties in the semi-finals.

We had had a great tournament in 1998 and were probably the best team there but it was not to be. When you go all the way to penalty kicks, it is a lottery who wins, as always. That match showed me that winning is the name of the game, no matter how you do it.

You always have to beat the best at some point to win a World Cup. That test comes now for the Dutch.

If they can spring a surprise on Friday, then the tournament really opens up for them, with either Ghana or Uruguay awaiting in the semi-finals. But, first things first, they need to beat Brazil!

Clarence Seedorf was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan

Bebeto and Romario

Branco free-kick sinks Netherlands in 1994 World Cup

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see also
Classic awaits Brazil and Netherlands
01 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Team tracker and Predictor
27 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Injury sidelines Brazil ace Elano
30 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Van Marwijk defends Dutch style
28 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Dunga expects Brazil improvement
28 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Slovakia coach in awe of Robben
28 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Dunga takes on Brazilian press
24 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010

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