After impressing so greatly during the group stage, Holland trailed their round of 16 opponents Mexico from the 48th minute and looked incapable of beating an inspired Guillermo Ochoa in the opposition net.
Three-time finalists, three-time losers, this looked to be another heartbreaking World Cup for Holland. Then, something changed. A rousing comeback in the last two minutes of the match saw them prevail 2-1.
With 3-5-2 tactics largely cancelling each other out, something needed to change in order for Holland to get back into things.
Luckily, in Louis van Gaal they have a man who is as beneficial on the sidelines as a prolific striker up front.
His switch to 4-2-3-1 cleared a path for Holland’s win, while his nous to deliver a team-talk during the game’s water break showed the strategic hallmarks of a World Cup winning coach.
Holland’s starting XI is unique in this tournament in that, unlike their competitors, they have two men up front in form.
As the old saying goes though, form is temporary and when Robin van Persie was removed after 76 minutes against Mexico another Dutch strength emerged.
Calling on a striker with an impressive 35 goals in 63 games for Holland is a considerable strength and, even though Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had not seen any match action previously in Brazil, it paid off.
The Schalke man laid on Wesley Sneijder’s equaliser with a cushioned header before cooly slotting a 90th-minute penalty to win.
Make that three strikers in form now.
The final leg of that striking tripod is perhaps the most important.
Few players at this tournament have been as consistently destructive as Arjen Robben and the Bayern Munich man, who missed a crucial one-on-one in the 2010 final, seems hell-bent on claiming the trophy this time around.
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