Portugal and Netherlands conceded only one goal in going unbeaten in their first three World Cup matches. With two defenses like that, their second round match indicates a low-scoring encounter and one goal may make the difference.
Yet with Luis Figo and Deco on one side and Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie on the other, it's anybody's guess what will happen in Sunday's game between the two European heavy-weights.
If history is anything to go by, the odds favour Portugal.
"The Netherlands is a totally different team now, and this game is very different, too. It's a World Cup,” said Portugal mid-fielder Maniche, who scored the winner against the Netherlands in the 2004 European Championships semifinals.
"They know how we play and they'll be a big hurdle for us to get over.” Portugal will probably field a starting lineup similar to the one that beat the Netherlands 2-1 two years ago, while Dutch coach Marco Van Basten has totally revamped his team since.
Portugal looks like it will be fully fit for the match, while only right-back John Heitinga is a doubt for the Netherlands. Deco trained on his own on Thursday to protect a sore ankle, but the FC Barcelona star should be declared fit on Sunday.
Portugal (Fourth appearance)
|Holland (Eighth appearance)|
|Best performance: Third in 1966||Best performance: Runner-up in 1974 and 1978|
|First-Round results: Beat Angola 1-0, Iran 2-0 and Mexico 2-1||First-Round Results: Beat Ivory Coast 2-1, S&M 1-0 and drew 0-0 with Argentina|
|First-Round Stats: Luis Figo led effort to hold off Angola and set up both goals against Iran. Deco's return boosted the team||First-Round Stats: Robben an van Persie's wing play in the first two games resulted in goals|
|Outlook: After two early wins, Portugal felt comfortable enough to rest many regulars agianst Mexico and still won. The Mexico victory was the 10th straight in the World Cup for coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led his native Brazil to the title in 2002||Outlook: The Dutch had early success. By the time they came to play Argentina, they already qualified and sat the injured and yellow-carded. The lack of depth against Argentina was clear.|
|Probable XI: Ricardo, Miguel, Carvalho, Meira, Valente, Petit, Maniche, Ronaldo, Figo,Sabrosa, Gomes||Probabale XI: Van der Sar, Kromkamp, Ooijer, Jailens, De Cler, Landzaat, Sneijder, Cocu, Kuyt, Van Nisteloory, Van Persie|
The 33-year-old Figo has turned back the clock in his performances so far in the competition and been instrumental in the good run.
"We feel sure we can get past the Netherlands in 90 minutes," Maniche said. "Even if it goes to extra time and penalties, we're in good shape to cope with that."