Holland's Kevin Strootman believes tomorrow's clash with Romania in Bucharest could go a long way to determining who qualifies for the 2014 World Cup.
The sides sit level on nine points at the top of Group D, both with a 100 per cent record from their opening three matches.
Holland claimed a routine 3-0 home win over whipping boys Andorra on Friday, while Romania enjoyed an impressive victory in Turkey.
PSV Eindhoven midfielder Strootman said on www.telegraaf.nl: ``There are still a lot of matches, but Tuesday's is indeed very important.
``Romania on Friday won 1-0 in Turkey, which is a good result. That makes the next game even more important.''
The Dutch, now under the guidance of experienced coach Louis van Gaal, are still looking to make up for a woeful showing at Euro 2012, when they limped out after the group stage.
And Strootman believes he can see the collection of highly talented individuals growing into a team under Van Gaal, a renowned disciplinarian.
``The level of the training is high, we grow ever closer together,'' he added.
Strootman, 22, became Holland's youngest captain in a competitive match when he skippered the side for the first time against Andorra and is set to keep the armband for the trip to Romania.
He added on www.sport1.nl: ``To take to the pitch with the armband for the first time was a special feeling. But during the match I did not think about it at all.''
Strootman's elevation to national team captain completed a rapid rise for the player, who just two years ago was relegated from the Eredivisie with Sparta Rotterdam.
``It was so fast, but I have had little time to stand still,'' he said. ``The events have followed so quickly. Perhaps the realisation will sink in in a few years.''
Romania can go into the match justifiably confident, though, having yet to concede a goal in the group.
Their opening wins over Estonia and Andorra were expected, but the success in Istanbul against a Turkey side who were predicted to be Holland's main challengers showed their credentials.
But Romania coach Victor Piturca admitted he would be happy with a point from the match.
He told www.onlinesport.ro: ``I'd be happy with a draw with Holland. The thing is not to lose. Right now we are in second place (on goal difference), but we intend to win the group.
``We are in good shape and a good position mentally.
``Hopefully all the players are fit and those who had little problems are all right.''
Piturca confirmed, though, that veteran striker Adrian Mutu would not be fully fit.