PE gears up for blockbuster

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PORT ELIZABETH, July 1 – Brazil, without suspended Ramires and injured Elano, face the Netherlands here on Friday for the fourth time at a World Cup in what promises to be an explosive quarter-final.
In 1994 Brazil overcame the Dutch 3-2 at the same stage of the competition before going on to win the title. Four years later in France the Oranje lost out again, 4-2 on penalties after drawing their semi-final 1-1.

They first met in 1974, with the European side prevailing 2-0.

The Netherlands are in arguably better shape than they have ever been to exact revenge on their arch nemesis at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium and extend their unbeaten record in South Africa to five games.

Bert van Marwijk’s men are seeking to be crowned champions at the ninth attempt, after falling at the final hurdle twice – in 1974 and 1978.

Van Marwijk, appointed after Euro 2008 when Holland excelled in the ‘Group of Death’ only to run out of steam against Russia, has claimed his team are the "underdogs".

"Brazil are a very mature and stable team.

"They convey a positive form of arrogance, that others cannot win. We might be the underdogs against Brazil, for the first time in this World Cup," he said.

Holland’s previous international outings have often been marked by discord in the camp, sometimes along racial lines, but one of the hallmarks of the 2010 squad has been its harmony.

That unity was briefly threatened by an outburst from Robin van Persie who when he was taken off during Monday’s last 16 win over Slovakia reportedly said "it is not me that should be substituted but Wesley Sneijder".

Van Persie later denied that he had mentioned Sneijder, but just to be on the safe side van Maarwijk held clear the air talks between the pair, with Sneijder later insisting nothing had happened.

Dunga’s Brazil meanwhile are aiming to become the first of what could be an all-South American cast list for the semi-finals.

The Selecao are seemingly coming to the boil at just the right time judged on their 3-0 last 16 rout of Chile, one of the most attractive sides at these finals.

Goals from Juan, Luis Fabiano and Robinho put Brazil into the last eight with a record of three wins and a drab draw with Portugal in Durban.

Brazil suffered a shock quarter-final defeat to eventual beaten finalists France in Germany in 2006, and are anxious to atone for that reverse as they seek a sixth world crown.

Gilberto Silva said: "I believe we can win (the title)."

Turning to the upcoming test against Holland the former Arsenal midfielder added: "We know that if we give them space it will be very difficult for us and we could have a problem."

Dunga, under enormous pressure to deliver the title, has the utmost respect for Friday’s opposition.

"They play their football like South Americans," said the 1994 World Cup winning captain.

"Even though Brazil has beaten the Dutch twice before, every World Cup provides its own experience.

"Holland have a good tradition at the World Cup, we have to be very careful with the Dutch players, they are very technically able and we have to be able to deal with that."

In midfield Dunga is without Ramires, suspended after picking up a second booking against Chile. Elano, who has scored twice, is also out with the ankle injury he suffered against the Ivory Coast.

Felipe Melo is also carrying an ankle injury and faces a race against time to take Ramires’ place on the left.

Kaka is one of three Brazilians and no fewer than seven Dutch who will miss an eventual semi-final should they receive a second yellow card.

KEY TO MATCH

How the Dutch defence, virtually impregnable up to this quarter-final after the concession of just two penalties, will stand up to its toughest examination yet against the goal-scoring wizards from South America

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