- Argentina’s coach predicts a “beautiful game” against the Netherlands; the winner to take on Brazil or Croatia in the semis.
Who: Argentina vs Netherlands
Where: Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar
When: Friday, December 9, 2022, 10 pm (19:00 GMT)
The tantalizing clash between two of the great teams of world football at the 89,000-capacity Lusail Stadium comes after Lionel Scaloni’s men edged past Australia 2-1 in the last 16 and his veteran counterpart Louis van Gaal led the Dutch to a 3-1 win over the USA.
“It’s going to be a very beautiful game, with two historic teams. Sadly one team has to lose and we hope it’s us who go through,” Argentina’s Scaloni told reporters last Sunday.
“We face a difficult opponent, like everyone else, and we hope to do well. Maybe they’re not shining like the previous Dutch teams, but they’re very clear on what they’re doing.”
Argentina’s captain Lionel Messi and the talisman were equally clear on Sunday about the task ahead.
“They have great players and a great coach, it’s going to be very close,” he said, a day after scoring against Australia in his 1,000th career appearance. “It’s the quarter-finals of a World Cup and if a World Cup has been difficult from the start, it gets even harder at this stage.”
The 35-year-old’s influence in Qatar has grown game by match. Messi has scored three goals so far and is now just three wins away from handing Argentina a third World Cup trophy.
Messi’s increasingly impressive performances have fitted with Argentina’s growing stature as the tournament has unfolded, sidelining an opening 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia to win three games on rebounding since then, scoring five goals and conceding just once in the process.
The Dutch Serve to Warn of Quality with Depay’s Goal
The Netherlands, meanwhile, will focus on dulling Messi in a clash that will pit the diminutive striker against Virgil van Dijk, the colossal captain of the Netherlands and one of the world’s best center-backs, while causing Scaloni his problems.
Van Gaal’s side has been boosted by the return to fitness of skilled attacker Memphis Depay and the continued good form of striker Cody Gakpo, who has scored three times in Qatar.
Similar to the strategy they employed against the United States, the Dutch can be content to concede control of the ball again for long stretches and threaten the counterattack, exposing any space left at the back by La Albiceleste.
Van Gaal has been under pressure in Qatar since declaring that the Oranje were capable of becoming world champions for the first time. He has also faced criticism for his team’s supposed conservatism, with Dutch teams traditionally known for more expansive football.
But the performance against the United States was a remarkable demonstration of what Holland can produce, with Depay’s first goal, which came on the back of a majestic 21-pass sequence, a graphic reminder of their quality.
“We just want to go out and show our quality, show the team spirit, show the togetherness we have, and move forward, hopefully, to the next stage,” he told reporters.
“We know we are three games away from glory,” he added. “We want to perform and leave everything on the field and I hope to succeed. And this is our opportunity and hopefully, we can enjoy the opportunity and get through it as well.”
The winners of Friday’s clash will face either Croatia or Brazil in the semifinals.
Source: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
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