The war between football nations in the 2022 FIFA World Cup ceases fire for two days as winners from each of the eight contested Round of 16 matches rest and prepare for the last eight fixtures that will take place starting this Friday. Of all the teams that had qualified for the quarterfinal round of the competition, seven nations ranked within the top 12 positions of the FIFA ranking, leaving Morocco (World no. 22) the biggest dark horse in the contest.
One of the most anticipated clashes in the last eight will see Group A winner Netherlands compete against their Group C counterpart, the Messi-led Argentina; The former overcame the USMNT with a convincing 3-1 victory while the latter avoided a late comeback from their opponent to beat the Socceroos 2-1. Saturday’s match will be the tenth meeting between the two in all competitions and a repeat of the 2014 FIFA World Cup semifinal fixture, a game where the Oranje desperately want to forget as they lost out on penalties against La Albiceleste and a spot in the final.
Louis van Gaal coached the 2014 Dutch squad and his men will want to complete their long-awaited revenge over Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina. Here are some things his team could do to defeat La Albiceleste.
Stop Messi, Stop Argentina
Easier said than done, of course. But Messi is not getting younger now, is he? So restraining him from doing what he does best would be a whole lot easier than before being at 35 years of age. The Dutch squad has the speed and physiques to play physically against La Pulga, with Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk leading the Dutch backwall to parry anything the Messi-led attack is throwing at him.
Dominate with Big Boys
It is no secret that Argentina is the shortest team left in the 2022 FIFA World Cup with an average height of under 180cm, while the Dutch’s average height is 0.1cm shy of 184cm. This means that Louis van Gaal can exploit La Albiceleste height issues and bully their defence with tall players such as their captain Virgil van Dijk (195cm) or PSV’s Cody Gakpo (193cm), especially during set-pieces like freekicks or corners. Manchester United’s Lisandro Martínez may be able to repel some of the Dutch crosses in the match like how he excelled in the physical English Premier League, but sooner or later he will fare worse against the Big Boys of Netherlands.
Make Full Use of Argentina’s Weak and Old Defence
Argentina’s defensive record has been below average (3 goals conceded in 4 matches) and this could be their largest weakness of all, with the leading defender, Benfica’s Nicolás Otamendi already 34 years old. Considering the Argentine defence lacks both pace and height, the Oranje can run at their backline and channel with speedy players namely Memphis Depay, Cody Gakpo and Steven Bergwijn. It is worth noting that the 23-year-old Gakpo has already scored 3 goals in the World Cup and is the tournament’s joint second-best scorer.
Frenkie the Key
The Barcelona’s midfield star is the reason why Netherlands is in the quarterfinal of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and his importance in the Argentina clash will be magnified. It is interesting to see whether Louis van Gaal will revamp his selection to allow more support to be given to de Jong as the Argentines are going to prevent him from linking up passes and connecting between plays in the buildup of goals.
Messi’s nemesis, Ronaldo’s Portugal crashed Switzerland to reach the last eight of the 2022 World Cup without him starting. Here are the match details.
(Photo Credits: Goal)