By TATE STEINLAGE
It’s do or die time already for several teams in action Wednesday, including Australia.
A horrid start that included two Chilean goals left Australia to play catchup for much of its opening 3-1 loss Friday. Despite putting six shots on frame in 13 attempts and getting a first-half goal from forward Tim Cahill, Australia was unable to break up the impressive Chilean possession.
If the Socceroos do have anything going for them Wednesday against the Netherlands, it’s history. In three matches against the Dutch, Australia has never lost (1-0-2). However, this isn’t the 2010 version of the Netherlands, which was often called the dark horse of that tournament.
The Netherlands routed Spain last week, 5-1, in the tournament’s first major upset. The Dutch were forced to respond to an early penalty goal for Spain, and that they did, scoring a world-class header in the 44th minute before adding four more in the second half to stun the 2010 World Cup winners.
Australia needs three points to remain afloat in Group B, while the Netherlands can secure a place in the knockout round with three points and a Spanish tie or loss. An outcome will be decided in Porto Alegre, Brazil starting at 12 p.m. on ESPN.
Here are some more notes ahead of Wednesday’s World Cup action:
SPAIN vs. CHILE
For Spain, the reality is that anything but three points Wednesday will eliminate them from World Cup contention.
That certainly wasn’t the situation manager Vincente del Bosque foresaw his team being in prior to the tournament, but being embarrassed 5-1 by the Netherlands has put the Spaniards in desperation mode.
It wasn’t identity problems that plagued Spain against the Dutch, at least when Spain had the ball. The Spaniards had 57 percent possession and put two-thirds of its shots on frame. Rather surprisingly, it was the lack of a killer instinct along with a shaky back line that created the perfect storm for the Dutch domination.
Chile enters Wednesday’s match on a completely different note, however, having won its opening fixture against Australia 3-1. The Chileans scored two goals in as many minutes in that match, but a well-rounded performance was what really saw Chile through.
The Chileans will have a shot to end Spain’s campaign for the second World Cup in a row. In 2010, Spain outlasted Chile in a thrilling 2-1 contest that helped the champions avoid Brazil en route to the finals.
Spain will try to make history repeat itself Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro starting at 3 p.m. on ESPN.
CAMEROON vs. CROATIA
Two sides coming off a defeat meet Wednesday, aiming to shake up Group A prior to the third matches.
Cameroon didn’t play well in its opening match against Mexico, a 1-0 defeat. However, the Africans were primed to take home a point before Mexican forward Oribe Peralta pulled a page out of Landon Donovan’s playbook to help El Tri earn three points.
Nevertheless, that effort against Mexico won’t be enough to stop Croatia, which still feels like it was burned by a bad penalty kick call against Brazil in the tournament’s opening match. Croatia isn’t quite a dark horse team, but it’s a side that can cause Cameroon trouble in the midfield.
With a loss, either Cameroon or Croatia will be eliminated from World Cup contention. The two teams will go head to head in Manaus starting at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
What do you think of day seven’s match ups? Will the Netherlands suffer a sort of hangover after its opening victory? Can Chile eliminate Spain before we even get to the third group stage matches? Will Cameroon or Croatia stay alive in Manaus?
Share your thoughts below.