Australia vs. Netherlands: 2014 FIFA World Cup | Group B Preview
Australia will have to do more than embrace their scrappy underdog role against an Oranje side that's clearly committed to ending their long string of “Close, but ...” trips to the World Cup. The Socceroos will have to pull off a massive upset even to stay alive in a group that also includes defending champions Spain, even though the Spaniards looked awful in their Group B opener. Fail to pick up all three, and the Aussies are likely a three-and-out side for the second straight time.
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SPEAKING OF THOSE OPENING MATCHES: The Dutch weren't content merely to beat Spain in their first group match – they steamrolled the defending champs 5-1 in a rematch of the 2010 title game in South Africa. Australia conceded two early goals to Chile, then got back in it on Tim Cahill's header before finally falling 3-1.
DISPARATE HISTORIES, SIMILAR STREAKS: The Dutch – perennial World Cup bridesmaids, with four runners-up finishes and no titles – have been to nine World Cup finals. Australia have been to four, and only got as far as the Round of 16 in 2006 before falling to eventual champions Italy. However, both sides are playing in the tournament for the third straight time, after the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2002 edition in Korea and Japan.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) June 17, 2014
RECORD-SETTING RED BULL: Cahill, who scored Australia's first World Cup goal in 2006 (the Socceroos went scoreless in three on their 1974 debut), adds to his national-team record in that category every time he finds the net. The New York Red Bulls midfielder, known for his leaping ability and skill with his head, has four goals on the game's biggest stage.
ANOTHER ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Dutch midfielder Jonathan de Guzman and his brother Julian were both born in Ontario. Julian is a Canadian international, but Jonathan – who left Canada for Europe at a young age to focus on developing his game – elected for the Oranje after receiving his Dutch citizenship in 2008. The decision came a week after he gave an interview on Canadian television, saying he hadn't yet made up his mind.
— Toronto Sun (@TheTorontoSun) June 15, 2014
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THE STAR YOU KNOW: Seriously, is there anyone who hasn't seen Robin van Persie's gorgeous flying header against Spain? That was more than just a GIF-worthy moment, though; in the big picture, it showed just how much van Persie is willing to lay everything out there for the national side that he now captains. He's no longer the petulant, injury-prone underachiever who left detractors wondering when his maturity would catch up to his talent. It has – and with the Dutch trying to avoid a Round-of-16 matchup with Brazil, look for him to keep his game turned up through this group stage.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU: Australia's new captain, defensive midfielder Mile Jedinak, was given the armband after he skippered Crystal Palace to a respectable 11th-place finish in England's Premier League this past season. He's tough, good in the air and a skilled, fearless challenger – all of which Australia will need to keep the Dutch forwards from overwhelming the Socceroos' backline. Read his story: from part-time player to World Cup captain.