World Cup 2022 quarter-final preview: Argentina v Netherlands – Messi’s men face biggest test yet

Argentina face the Netherlands in the second World Cup quarter-final today, with kick-off at the Lusail Iconic Stadium at 7pm UK time.

It will be the first meeting between the nations since the 2014 World Cup semi-final — the only time Argentina have reached the last four of the competition in the Lionel Messi era.

Messi is expected to start in an attack also featuring his former PSG teammate Angel Di Maria, who missed the round of 16 victory over Australia through injury.

The Netherlands also boast a full-strength side, with talismanic forward Memphis Depay now back in the team and among the goals after netting in their 3–1 second-round win over the USA.

Historical Context

The Oranje and La Albiceleste have met five times in previous World Cups, setting up a classic fixture between the two nations this evening. Both sides have come out on top twice, with a draw in 2006, so the pressure will be on for one to take the lead historically, as well as progress in this tournament.

Previous showdowns have created legendary World Cup moments. In 1998, the Netherlands advanced to the semi-finals by virtue of Dennis Bergkamp’s 89th-minute goal, while their most recent encounter saw a Messi-bolstered Argentina take the win on penalties.

Route to the quarter final

The route to the final has been somewhat dramatic for Argentina after Saudi Arabia registered a shock 2-1 win in the first round of Group C. But the two-time world champions made a recovery to deliver two routine victories against Poland and Mexico before ending Australia’s World Cup dreams in the last 16.

The Netherlands, on the other hand, remain unbeaten with wins over Senegal and Qatar sandwiching a draw with Ecuador in Group A. The Oranje then conquered the USA in the first round of the knockouts.

Key battles

Denzel Dumfries vs Marcos Acuna

Dumfries got a goal and two assists in the Dutch’s last 16 tie, finding acres of space on each occasion. These two sides will be tactically mismatched, with the Dutch five-man defence against the Argentinian four, and the question is whether Acuna can handle Dumfries’ rampant attacking threat.

Lionel Messi vs his own legacy

As we all know, this is the great man’s last World Cup and his last chance at emulating Diego Maradona and winning football’s biggest prize. Whether he can handle the pressure and carry a young, disconnected side to the trophy will potentially define his legacy.

Cody Gakpo vs probability

23-year-old PSV starlet Gakpo scored in each of the Netherlands’ first three games, but at an xG of just 0.28, his was the largest overperformance of any player in the tournament so far. Can the youngster continue to outrun the statistical gods against Argentina?


Netherlands 2-1 Argentina

Many felt, heading into this World Cup, that Messi’s last chance at World Cup glory might actually culminate in the sweetest of ways to bow out from the international game. However, against Saudi Arabia in their opener and at moments in every match since, Argentina have looked fallible and defensively flawed. The Netherlands were not fancied ahead of the finals, but they could well spring a surprise here.

Featured Image: Кирилл Венедиктов via the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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