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Slovakia vs Netherlands – small minnow meets small shark

| 27.06.2010

Holland have been attracting a lot of money to win the World Cup for the first time in their history and have been backed in to 7/1.

But first they have to deal with the pesky Slovakians, with their mountain symbols across their chests – not a natural feature the Dutch are over familiar with – and who come with the reputation of outfighting and outwitting the champions Italy in their last group game. The match kicks off in Durban at 3pm on Monday.

The Dutch have progressed serenely through the World Cup so far, winning their three group games with a minimum of fuss, although they have yet to display the flair and extreme self-assurance that Brazil and Argentina have in abundance.

They are the form team of the tournament though, unbeaten in 22, including 17 wins, and are not surprisingly a big favourite (4/9) to beat Slovakia.

Robin van Persie (7/2) heads a long list of Dutchmen queuing up to bang in the first goal, while Robert Vittek, who scored two to put Italy out, is at 8/1.

The Netherlands’ greatest weakness was felt to be their defence, with Heitinga and Mathijsen not of the same quality as the midfield and attack, goalkeeper Stekelenburg a bit green, and full back Van Bronckhorst, at 35, getting on a bit. Although they have won seven straight, they have only kept the opposition out in two of those games. They are 8/11 to keep a clean sheet this time.

There is a precedent for such an upset in the round 16 though: in 2002, Korea, then ranked 40, knocked out Italy, then ranked 6. Slovakia are currently ranked 34, the Netherlands 4. Slovakia are 6/1 to win, 3/1 the draw.

Do Slovakia have a mighty shock in store for the Dutch? They are 7/2 to qualify.



Ed Needham