Coming off Sunday's Round of 16 matches that featured two of the sports' great international rivalries, Monday's games look more like preparation for the day's two favorites than contentious matches. That perception will make it even more memorable should Slovakia or Chile pull-off upsets, but in all likelihood, we're seeing the last entries on Dutch and Brazilian resumés before a possible quarterfinal meeting on Friday.
Netherlands vs. Slovakia, Durban, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, ESPN
Where They Stand: The Netherlands won Group E with nine points, one of two teams to come out of group play with a perfect record. They've never trailed in the tournament, with the Dutch's only misgiving being the injury to their best player, Arjen Robben. The right wing hurt his hamstring in the last pre-tournament friendly and has only been able to play once in South Africa. He is expected to be available but not start on Monday.
Slovakia's 3-2 win over Italy in their last match vaulted the team from the bottom of Group F into second place. They drew with New Zealand to start the tournament, following that result with a loss to eventual group-winner Paraguay.
Player(s) To Watch, Netherlands: Robben's absence takes away the team's best attacking option, putting more emphasis on Wesley Sneijder, the Netherland's star attacking midfielder, to orchestrate the Dutch attack. Sneijder, like the Dutch attack, has underwhelmed thus far, scoring one goal while failing to be involved in the Netherlands' other four. If the Dutch are going to win their first World Cup, they will likely need more influential play from Sneijder.
Player(s) To Watch, Slovakia: After two disappointing matches to start the tournament, Marek Hamsik provided Slovakia with a midfield presence in their final group match that gave us reason to believe the Slovaks were more like the team that qualified atop their UEFA group than the squad that got one point from Paraguay and New Zealand. With problems in Slovakia's defense, Hamsik may have to out Sneijder Sneijder for Slovakia to have a chance.
Prediction: A Slovakia team that had trouble dealing with Paraguay's pressure will have no reprieve against the Dutch, who are better situated through the midfield to take advantage of Slovakia's mistakes. With the Netherlands' depth and sometimes relentless way for attacking, this should be the match where the Dutch break-out, something along the lines of Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0.
Brazil vs. Chile, Johannesburg (Ellis Park), 2:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN
Where They Stand: Brazil is coming off a 0-0 draw with Portugal, their only blemish in Group G. Kaká will be returning from a one match suspension, with Robinho and Elano also set to return to the lineup (from rest and injury, respectively).
Chile's coming off a 2-1 loss to Spain, the first time they've dropped points in the tournament. The loss relegated them to second in Group H, setting-up this match-up with their CONMEBOL partners, against whom they lost both World Cup qualifiers. If they're to turn that record around on Monday, it will be without midfielder Marco Estrada and defenders Waldo Ponce and Gary Medel.
Player(s) To Watch, Brazil: Before his suspension, Kaká had started to erase doubts as to whether he could rebound from his poor Real Madrid form. Against Chile, his ability to break Brazil into their counter attack could run up another lopsided result. During qualifying, Brazil beat Chile 3-0 in Santiago and, with their back-ups, 4-2 in Salvador, results owed to Brazil's counter taking advantage of Chile's aggressive approach.
Player(s) To Watch, Chile: One of Chile's few advantages will be along the right flank. Alexis Sánchez will have the opportunity to go up against Michel Bastos, an attacking midfielder that's being employed at left back by Dunga. Bastos has the physical talents to compete with Sánchez, but containing one of the game's paciest players is asking a lof of a midfielder who has only a couple of months' repetitions in defense.
Prediction: Chile's been the tournament's darlings because of their style and ambition, but their results have not kept pace with their increasingly glowing reputation. There's no reason to think we're not in store for another comfortable Brazil win, something along the lines of Brazil 4, Chile 1.