Two heavyweights in World Cup history will collide in the quarterfinals of this edition of the premier football tournament as Argentina take on the Netherlands at Lusail Stadium on Friday.
Both teams progressed after nervy victories in the Round of 16. Argentina took out Australia, while the Netherlands got the better of an impressive USA side. Argentina were bolstered by Leo Messi’s first World Cup knockout goal in what was a fantastic one-two followed by a typical measured finish from the maestro. Rodrigo de Paul and Julian Alvarez subsequently capitalised on a goalkeeping error from Matt Ryan to score a second before holding on to win despite conceding an own goal via a shot that took a massive deflection off Enzo Fernandez.
Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands were probably second best against the USA for most of the game but were nevertheless able to pull off a convincing victory in terms of the scoreline, which read 3-1. The Americans were able to build up their play much better than their Dutch counterparts but were not able to pick up third-man runs from the Holland wide players who used this weakness to devastating effect. Denzel Dumfries, in particular, was fantastic against the USA, scoring a goal in addition to picking up a couple of assists.
Lionel Messi has been in excellent form so far this season for both club and country. He notched up 30 goal contributions for PSG in the first half of the season. The great man has also been in top form for his country, scoring three goals and assisting one so far in the tournament. Apart from a missed penalty kick in Argentina’s last group stage game against Poland, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has not laid a wrong foot in this World Cup.
He has held together a rather underwhelming Argentine attack in the tournament, and coming off what many have said was his best game of the World Cup so far against the Socceroos, it is elementary that the former Barcelona legend will have a huge say in Argentina’s fortunes come the quarter final stage.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was one of Lionel Scaloni’s best players in their victorious Copa America campaign in 2021. The Aston Villa custodian provided Argentina some much-needed solidity in goal after a series of players who could not make the impact that was expected of them.
Martinez gave the Argentina side a much-needed upgrade over the likes of Franco Armani and the veteran Willy Caballero, both of whom looked past their best in the 2018 World Cup. Although Martinez has been good, he is prone to the occasional error, something which Scaloni will be hoping will not happen as they take on the Netherlands.
Despite a rather underwhelming performance track record since moving to Barcelona from Lyon, Memphis Depay often transforms into the version that fans expect from a player of his quality while playing for his nation.
The forward has been very good in the World Cup so far, even scoring the opener in his side’s round of 16 encounter against the USA. Equipped with the ability to score as well as create goals, Depay will be a vital cog in the Netherlands side.
Frenkie de Jong has risen to become one of the best midfielders of the upcoming generation, something that many expected from the Dutchman ever since his days with Ajax. The Barcelona midfielder is perhaps one the best ball carriers in the world, with the vision to play line-breaking passes with frightening regularity. De Jong has sparkled for the Clockwork Orange in the World Cup, and Van Gaal will be expecting him to deliver once again as the Netherlands look for a spot in the last four.
Both sides seem very evenly matched both in terms of squad depth and performance, as neither team has had a dominant display thus far. While it is true that the tournament has been one of the most competitive in quite some time, both sides will be worried by the fact that they haven’t been able to dictate the flow of the game, even against lower oppositions.
Netherlands looked vulnerable in possession against the USA at times, while the Argentina attack has failed to capitalise on some huge chances. While the contest does promise to be a very competitive one, Argentina start as slight favourites.