Huntelaar favours S. American teams
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Netherlands forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has tipped a South American team for World Cup glory, and has warned that Chile will be a team to watch in Group B. The Schalke 04 attacker also called not playing in the 2010 World Cup final one of the low points of his career.
The Netherlands, in World Cup group B, are set for a replay of the 2010 World Cup final in their opening match. The Louis van Gaal XI will meet with Spain in Salvador on June 13, and also face Chile and Australia during the group stage.
"Spain are the favourites because of their last six years. They have always performed," Huntelaar told ESPN FC on Monday, one days ahead of the Netherlands squad announcement on Tuesday. "But Chile are also strong. You could see how good they are against Germany" in a March friendly, which Chile lost 1-0 despite being the better team.
"They have played good football and are very strong as collective," Huntelaar continued. "The players might not have a resounding name like the Spanish players, but they have a lot of potential. And we can't underestimate Australia. This is a strong group."
Under Van Gaal, the face of the Netherlands side has changed. During his two years as the Dutch boss, the former FC Bayern coach has handed Elftal debuts to no fewer than 25 players, most of them coming from the Dutch Eredivsie.
"We've got a new team with loads of young players. Nobody expects that we will return to the final. The goal is to make it out of the group, and we'll have to see what comes next," Huntelaar said. "In 2010 we had a more experienced team because of the age structure. But now we have more and younger players from the Eredivisie. You can't really say whether the 2010 squad was stronger."
Should the Netherlands, who had a disappointing European Championship in 2012, make it out of the group, they could face hosts Brazil in the round of the last 16.
"We know that we'd play the Brazil group should we advance from the group stages," Huntelaar said. "Should it indeed be Brazil, than it's like that. Everything is possible in football. In 2010, we also played them and beat them [2-1 in the quarterfinal, after being down at halftime]. And it did not look like it in the first half."
In 2010, the Netherlands went on to play the final against Spain, but Huntelaar ,then still with AC Milan, did not play in Johannesburg, with coach Bert van Marwijk opting for Robin Van Persie. "Of course, I often think about the 2010 final. That was one of the low points in my career. When you are a part of the team, you also want to play."
Huntelaar missed most of the first half of the Bundesliga season with a knee injury. But in 2014 he returned to the action. He scored ten goals in 16 games, and helped the Royal Blues secure another year of Champions League football.
The attacker, however, is relaxed about his chance at the World Cup. However, Huntelaar said that playing alongside Robin van Persie would not be a problem, despite the two attackers not having formed the best of partnerships so far.
"I can play with everyone, also with Robin van Persie. But let's see what the coach plans," Huntelaar said. "There was talk of us playing with two strikers recently. Naturally, you always want to play, but it's about being successful -- no matter how this is achieved. I don't have problems with anyone. It's only important that you work together."
However, Huntelaar did not name the Netherlands among the World Cup favourites.
"For me, Argentina and Brazil are the favourites. The tournament is in South Amercia and the climate is different there. I think that this is advantage. Both nations have a good team and super players," Huntelaar said.