The Netherlands and Germany were clear-cut favorites to advance from Group B before Euro 2012 began. Denmark and Portugal are quality teams, but they really weren't supposed to contend with the big two. Then, Germany needed a late header from a previously poor striker to steal a 1-0 win, while the Netherlands were outplayed in a 1-0 loss to Denmark.
Germany are still in good shape even though they didn't look anywhere near as good as expected, but the Netherlands are in need of a result on Wednesday to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive. A draw gives them a chance, but unless Portugal defeats Denmark outright earlier in the day, it wouldn't give them a lot. They're going to need to be aggressive against Germany.
This could mean that Bert van Marwijk abandons the strategy that got him to the Euros without incident, as well as to a World Cup final. His team needs goals, and they need a midfielder who can pass from deep positions. Nigel De Jong and Mark van Bommel could very well walk out of the tunnel on Wednesday evening, but don't be surprised of one of them -- that would be De Jong -- is left on the bench. Whether Rafael van der Vaart moves back or Kevin Strootman enters, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Dutch make some sort of attacking change.
If Germany was at their best, this might be a risky move. And considering both how good Mesut Özil has been and how well Holland's double pivot shut down Christian Eriksen, it's probably a risky move no matter what. But it's considerably less risky than it would be against the best version of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Germany's star midfielder hasn't looked like himself since he broke his collarbone in February, and it was fairly obvious in Germany's game against Portugal that they'd be better served with Lars Bender providing some energy, or Ilkay Gündogan helping them to keep the ball.
Joachim Löw is loyal to his starters, however, and he's almost certainly going to stick with the same 11-man team that defeated Portugal. Van Marwijk is considerably less likely to do the same.
Key matchup - Philipp Lahm vs. Arjen Robben
Lahm is one of the best fullbacks in the world, but he plays right back for Bayern Munich. He's spent plenty of time as a left and right back for both club and country, but looked a little bit out of place for Germany against Portugal. He'll need to be on his game against his club teammate and the Netherlands' most dangerous player. Robben gets (fairly) criticized for being too selfish with the ball, but even though that causes him to squander chances, he still has absurd pace and dribbling skills. With all due respect to Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie, he's Holland's biggest attacking threat.
Is Mats Hummels the best defender in the world?
On the evidence of his performance against Portugal, probably. Thiago Silva doesn't get the benefit of playing in competitive matches this summer, so we'll be nice and not allow Hummels to pass him in the awesome defender pecking order, but it's getting close. Van Persie was solid, but wasteful against Denmark, and is going to have a tough matchup with Hummels. The Dutchman might be a little physically overmatched, which leads to another question.
Is it time to unleash the Hunter?
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar made the entire Bundesliga look bad week after week with his performances for Schalke this season. He has 31 goals in 54 appearances for his country. It's tough to bench van Persie, and the Netherlands need a passer in midfield more than they need another forward, but Huntelaar might be worth introducing into the game. He doesn't have anywhere near the technical quality or tactical awareness of van Persie, but he's physically imposing and he finds the net when his team doesn't look like they're going to create anything.
Projected Netherlands Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenberg; Jethro Willems, Ron Vlaar, John Heitinga, Gregory Van Der Wiel; Mark van Bommel, Nigel De Jong; Ibrahim Afellay, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben; Robin van Persie
Projected Germany Lineup (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng; Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Lukas Podolski, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller; Mario Gomez
Monty the Psychic Metal Disk says: De Jong and van Bommel: "Death to Özil!" Lukas Podolski: "lol I ain't even mad tho." 1-0 Germany.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, June 13th, 2:45 p.m. ET, 9:45 p.m. local
Venue: Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv, Ukraine
TV: ESPN (U.S. - English), ESPN Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), ITV 1 (U.K.), TSN (Canada)