Despite the odds weighing heavily in their favour, Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal insists he remains wary of the potential threat posed by Australia ahead of their World Cup clash this afternoon.
The Netherlands stunned reigning world champions Spain 5-1 in their opening game to earn thumping plaudits, but van Gaal has maintained that his side still have something to prove against an opponent they should not be taking for granted.
‘You win a World Cup by winning the final matches. This is just the first step and we have to keep our feet on the ground,’ he said. ‘We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves and we should prove our capability of winning over Australia, which won’t be that easy.’
Unfancied Australia are coming off a 3-1 defeat to Chile, in which, despite the disappointing scoreline, they impressed many onlookers with their tenacity and willingness to get forward.
Led by former Everton star Tim Cahill and Crystal Palace’s Mile Jedinak, who captains the side, few gave the Socceroos much hope going into Brazil after being drawn in the intimidating Group B, but their performance in their first match has filled the side with confidence they can push on to cause an upset.
Should the Netherlands play up to the level they demonstrated on Friday, however, then they will surely have few problems dispatching the AFC outfit, who’ll likely need another heroic effort from promising goalkeeper Mat Ryan just to stay in the game.
After poor friendly performances and an injury to influential midfielder Kevin Strootman earlier in the year saw van Gaal’s side switch from their traditional 4-3-3 setup to a more old-school 5-3-2 prior to the tournament, the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie already appear to be thriving in the new system, keeping the rest of the favourites in Brazil on their toes for the moment.
It has only been one game of course, as the manager himself stressed, but the squad filled with a mix of experience and youthful promise appears to be clicking as a unit at the right time, with the supposed defensive frailties talked about in the run up largely nowhere to be seen against the Spanish.
With van Gaal set to depart for Old Trafford this summer, having already signed a three-year contract in May to replace the departed David Moyes, fans of Manchester United will also be watching the Netherlands closely over the coming weeks, and a successful World Cup campaign for the former Ajax and Barcelona coach would certainly fill them with confidence ahead of the coming season.