Launch of the USA and Netherlands World Cup knockout phase

The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to a quarter-final meeting with Argentina or Australia.

Who: Netherlands vs USA
Where: Khalifa International Stadium
When: December 3, 6:00 PM (3:00 PM GMT)
FIFA Ranking: Netherlands (8), US (16)

In the first match of the knockout stages of the World Cup, the Netherlands take on the US at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday, with the European side looking to cement their credentials as serious challengers in Qatar.

There has been a lot of talk – especially from the Dutch camp – about the team’s potential to make it through the entire tournament.

Louis van Gaal’s side topped Group A, taking seven points with 2-0 wins over Senegal and Qatar, alongside a 1-1 draw against Ecuador.

But despite being undefeated, the Netherlands’ three appearances so far have left much to be desired, with several key players yet to be fully sacked and the side relying heavily on goals from the on-form Cody Gakpo.

That will bring hope to the Americans, who will be the underdogs but have already shown some proof of their own potential in an unbeaten run in Group B, securing 0-0 and 1-1 draws against England and Wales respectively and a gritty 1-0 victory over Iran to ensure their progress.

Christian Pulisic
The USA hopes that captain Christian Pulisic will be fit for the match against the Netherlands [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

USA sweating on Pulisic fitness

While the US sweats on the fitness of star player Christian Pulisic – he has a pelvic injury and is being assessed daily – coach Gregg Berhalter said his team would not have an inferiority complex.

“It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something we think is an honor,” Berhalter said. “We deserve to be in the position we are in now. And we want to continue. We don’t want to go home on Saturday.

“And anything can happen from here. All we have to do is play one game at a time. There is no need to even project how far this team can go,” added Berhalter, who has a deep knowledge of Dutch football. The 49-year-old played in the Dutch league between 1996 and 2000 for three different clubs.

For the Netherlands, it comes down to getting Memphis Depay on the attack and Frenkie de Jong on the ball in midfield.

Van Gaal has described them both as indispensable to the Dutch cause.

Memphis Depay
Depay will be critical to Holland’s hopes of taking on a challenge for the World Cup trophy [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Winner meets Argentina or Australia

Depay says he is over his hamstring injury, having played two substitutes and started their final group game.

“I drew a line under the fitness questions,” he told reporters.

“I’m fit. The knockout stage is serious business. We’re past the group stage, we can’t afford to slip into that now. A lot of people thought it would be a piece of cake, but it’s always a little different.”

The 71-year-old Van Gaal did not want to underestimate the opposition.

“I know from experience that games against countries like the United States and Australia, which we faced at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, are always very difficult,” he said. “They are very fanatical and sharp on the ball.”

The winner of the match will advance to a quarterfinal meeting with Argentina or Australia on December 9.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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