Game on: Netherlands and Mexico meet in Round of 16 clash


Yesterday’s first match stretched past 120 minutes, with Brazil finally eliminating Chile 3-2 on penalties. Will we be so lucky to experience similar thrills today?

There’s certainly potential. Both Mexico and Netherlands have shown talent at both ends of the pitch, but could the two balance each other out? After all, Holland scored the most goals in the group stages, with ten. But Mexico only conceded once, in their last game against Croatia (and they were already up by three). Seems like the perfect conditions for extra time.

[ MORE: Netherlands attempt a draw, beat Chile instead | Mexico thrash Croatia, 3-1 ]

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Netherlands: Cillessen; De Vrij, Vlaar, Blind; Kuyt, Verhaegh, De Jong, Wijnaldum, Sneijder; Van Persie, Robben

Mexico: Ochoa; Rodriguez, Salcido, Marquez, Aguilar, Layun; Herrera, Moreno, Guardado, Dos Santos; Peralta

Talking points

Will Mexico be able to make it past the Round of 16? 
In 1986, when the tournament was held in Mexico, El Tri made it through to the last eight. Then Mexico were banned from the 1990 World Cup, as they had used overage players in the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship. Since their return in 1994, Mexico has made it to the Round of 16 in every tournament. But for the past five World Cups, they’ve failed to progress beyond.

Is this their year? Can a patient Mexico side find Holland’s weakness, making it through to the next round?

Do Netherlands have a weakness?
Going into the World Cup, many thought Holland would be hindered by a lack of experience in many positions, but most importantly, in defense. When your most well-known defender captained Aston Villa through two relegation battles, well, it stands to reason you might have some concerns. But the Dutch youngsters are doing more than fine thus far, with many being linked to moves away from the Eredivisie.

However, they’re not perfect. Stefan de Vrji’s performance against Australia showed that he can be beaten. And while Dirk Kuyt did well to step in as a makeshift left-back in absence of Bruno Martins Indi – a role he’s reprising today – Mexico’s wide men may well be able to take advantage of the 33-year-old’s tired legs by the end of the match.

That Netherlands goes through to the quarter-finals. Mexico’s done well thus far, of course, but who would ever be so bold as to expect a CONCACAF side to prevail against a European team? That sort of thing never happens.

One blogger’s prediction
Working off my 0% record here, I’m going to go ahead and say Mexico take this one. Because someday, someday, I’m going to be right.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.