Netherlands v Ghana

Netherlands Netherlands v Ghana

Saturday 31 May – Rotterdam (20:30)

Netherlands and Ghana will meet in a mouth-watering encounter as they prepare for the World Cup in Brazil that kicks off in just under two weeks.

Captain Robin van Persie netted a superb volleyed goal as an under-strength Netherlands came from behind to draw 1-1 with visitors Ecuador in their World Cup warm-up match at the Amsterdam Arena last Sunday. The Dutch fell behind after nine minutes but Van Persie extended his record number of goals for his country to 42 as he took down a long ball from Jordy Clasie, which was hit from the halfway line and straight down the middle of the field, onto his chest before allowing it to drop onto his left foot for an exquisite finish eight minutes before half-time. The Dutch, whose emphatic form in the qualifiers meant they were the first European side to book their berth in Brazil, have failed to win their last four internationals. They lined-up in a 5-3-2 formation which coach Louis van Gaal said they would be forced to play at the World Cup because of injury to key midfielder Kevin Strootman, a lack of adequate left backs and a desire to field three creative players in every match. Van Persie was told on his late arrival to the team that he would play in all three warm-up matches to work on his match fitness after a two-month injury lay-off. Van Gaal, who took over after a disappointing Euro 2012 in which the Oranje lost all their group matches, has made a point of introducing younger talent, capping 25 new players in his 19 games in charge since August 2012. But the likes of Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart have remained a constant under the next Manchester United coach. The Dutch are now ranked 15th in the Fifa World rankings and will look to improve on that with a good showing at the World Cup just as they did in South Africa 2010 when they were runners-up to Spain after losing out in extra-time to an Andres Iniesta winner.

Click to bet nowThere are no big surprises in Ghana’s provisional 26 man squad, as old guards Asamoah Gyan, Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari all made the cut, while goalkeeper Stephen Adams is the only home-based player included. However, German-born Ghanaian Jeffrey Schlupp of Leicester City and Helsingborg striker David Accam have both been afforded opportunities to impress coach Kweshi Appiah before he whittles his squad down to 23 after this encounter with Netherlands. Essien along with Kevin-Prince Boateng, who also returns to the fray, are making a comeback to international football after taking time away from the national team to concentrate on their club careers. The Black Stars were the best-performing African team at the 2010 showpiece, reaching the quarter-finals and just missing out on the semi-finals after an unfortunate penalty shootout loss to Uruguay. On Friday night Ghana gave local fans a glimpse of their firepower with a 6-1 thumping of a local select-side. Appiah’s team scored through Christian Atsu (hat-trick), Jordan Ayew, Albert Adomah and Sulley Muntari. The Black Stars coach took the opportunity to have a look at the depth of his squad ahead of their departure to the Netherlands by fielding two sets of sides in each half. Appiah has repeatedly suggested in the run-up to the tournament that Ghana will make the semi-finals this time around, despite being drawn into a difficult group containing Germany, Portugal and USA. The confidence also stems from a proficient qualifying campaign where Ghana edged out 2012 African champions Zambia to win its group and then thrashed Egypt 7-3 on aggregate in the two-legged play-off. Influential players like Gyan, who has scored 39 goals for his country, Kwadwo Asamoah, Sulley Muntari, Boateng and Dede Ayew all return from the 2010 squad. However, Ghana could struggle at the back, with a lack of quality in goal and defence. In defence the successors to John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah come with less quality the centre back paring provided at past tournaments, while first-choice keeper Fatau Dauda has lost his place because of a lack of game time at club level for Orlando Pirates.

Ghana lie in 38th on the Fifa rankings, 23 places below their opponents. The last time these teams met was also in a World Cup warm-up match as Netherlands thrashed the Africans 4-1. With some of the Dutch stars likely to feature after playing small roles against Ecuador, the home win looks a likely outcome.

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