Argentina take on Netherlands for a spot in the semi-finals

Who: Argentina vs. Netherlands

Where: Lusail Stadium in Lusail Qatar

When: Friday, December 9, 2022 at 10pm (19:00 GMT).

Argentina’s coach has predicted a “beautiful game” against the Netherlands when the two sides meet in Friday’s World Cup quarter-final.

The tantalising 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 all of them, and we hope to do well. Maybe they are not shining like past Dutch teams, but they are very clear in what they do.”

Lionel Messi, Argentina’s captain and talisman, was similarly clear on Sunday about the task ahead.

“They have great players and a great coach, it’s going to be hard-fought,” 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 you are a World Cup has been tough from the start, it gets even tougher at this stage.”

Aged 44, Argentina’s coach Lionel Scaloni is nearly three decades younger than his 71-year-old Dutch counterpart Louis van Gaal [Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]

The 35-year-old’s influence in Qatar has grown game by game. Messi has already scored three goals and is just three wins away delivering Argentina a 3rd. World Cup trophy.

Messi’s increasingly impressive performances have dovetailed with Argentina’s growing stature as the tournament has developed, putting aside an opening shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia to win three games on the bounce since then, scoring five goals and conceding just once in the process.

Interactive - World Cup - Head To Head - Portugal V Switzerland
(Al Jazeera)

Dutch warn of quality with Depay goal

The Netherlands, meanwhile, will be focused on blunting Messi in a matchup that will pit the diminutive forward against Virgil van Dijk – the Netherlands’ colossal captain and one of the world’s best centre backs – while causing Scaloni’s charges problems of their own.

Van Gaal’s side has been buoyed by the return to fitness of skillful attacker Memphis Depay and the continued good form of frontman Cody Gakpo, who has netted three times in Qatar.

Similar to their strategy against the USA, the Dutch may again be content to concede the ball for long periods of time and threaten to counterattack.

Van Gaal has been under pressure from Qatar since declaring that the Oranje were world champions. He has also faced criticism over his side’s alleged conservatism, with Dutch teams traditionally known for more expansive football.

But the performance against the USA was a notable demonstration of what the Netherlands can produce, with Depay’s opening goal, which came on the back of a majestic 21-pass sequence, a graphic reminder of their quality.

Memphis Depay
The Netherlands’ Memphis Depay was in scintillating form against the USA, scoring his first goal at the 2022 World Cup after injury recovery [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Van Dijk stated Wednesday that his team has the hunger and desire to travel all the way to Qatar.

“We just want to go out there and show our quality, show the team spirit, show the togetherness that we have and progress, hopefully, to the next stage,” he told reporters.

“We know that we are three games away from glory,” he added. “We want to perform and leave it all on the pitch and hopefully get success. And this is our opportunity and hopefully we can enjoy the opportunity and go through as well.”

The winners of Friday’s clash will face either Croatia or Brazil in the semi-finals.

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