Group C topper Netherlands meets Group A topper Argentina in its FIFA World Cup 2022 quarterfinal match on December 10 at the Lusail Stadium.
The Netherlands will undoubtedly be Argentina’s biggest challenge till now in the Qatar World Cup. Both teams have a fair share of history as far as the World Cup is concerned. Argentina beat the Netherlands in the 1978 World Cup final to lift its first title. Argentina also beat the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup on penalties in the semifinals.
Louis Van Gaal and his men will have revenge on their minds. Ahead of the match, here are three key battles to look forward to.
Lionel Messi vs Virgil Van Dijk
The Lionel Messi vs Van Dijk face-off is arguably the most mouth-watering battle. The Messi of today may not make a mind-numbing run from the flanks, dribbling past multiple defenders. Messi realises he does not have the same speed and agility and operates from the middle of the pitch, creating chances for the forward line.
However, the Netherlands is the best defence Argentina would face in its World Cup run till now, and La Albiceleste might require their wizard to spend more time in the opponent’s penalty area.
Van Dijk’s towering presence in the box would undoubtedly be one of Messi’s most challenging obstacles. Van Dijk has been instrumental in the Oranje conceding just two goals in their four matches. Van Dijk has made an impressive 22 recoveries in this World Cup, which speaks volumes about his qualities as a centre-back.
Messi has three goals in four matches in this World Cup. Apart from his finishing abilities, his vision and ability to find that final pass amplify his threat. He has created 10 chances for Argentina till now.
Van Dijk vs Messi in the box would make for an intriguing battle. In terms of physicality, Van Dijk has an upper hand. But all Messi needs is that one good touch to create something for his team or find the net himself.
Cody Gakpo vs Cristian Romero
Like the Messi vs Van Dijk battle at one end, the Gakpo vs Romero Romero clash is equally exciting. Cristian Romero is the future of Argentina’s defence, but there were doubts over his form coming into this World Cup due to his injury concerns. He wasn’t at his best in Argentina’s opening-day loss to Saudi Arabia and got replaced by Lisandro Martinez against Mexico. But since then, he has played well against Poland and Australia.
Netherlands forward Cody Gakpo has been a hot topic of discussion. Gakpo has caught attention with his exquisite finishing and good movement, which has helped him score three goals in four matches. One of the breakout stars in this World Cup, Gakpo has been a menace for defenders with his pace, aerial prowess and fox-in-the-box abilities, which makes it difficult to mark him.
So, Romero will have to summon his A-game in order to stop Gakpo from hurting Argentina. Apart from his three goals, Gakpo has created five chances from open play. In his 340 minutes of playtime, Gakpo has attempted six take-ons and enjoys an 83 per cent success rate, indicating he isn’t afraid to take players on.
Romero is yet to unleash his absolute best. He has recovered from his poor performance against Saudi and put in good shifts in the following match. He has made 10 recoveries in the defensive phase of play till now, but dealing with an in-form forward like Gakpo will not be easy for Romero. Going into the quarterfinal, Gakpo has an edge over Romero.
Rodrigo De Paul vs Frenkie de Jong
It will be a La-Liga battle in the middle of the park as Atletico Madrid’s Rodrigo De Paul will square up against Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong.
Both are crucial parts of their team’s midfield, but their playing style is different. De Paul likes to cover huge areas across the pitch, with his sole focus being protecting the backline and acting as a medium of transition between the defence and the forward line. He does have that vision to make defence-splitting passes once in a while (like his assist to Angel Di Maria in the Copa America 2021 final against Brazil), but his main focus will be to win the ball and stop attacks.
De Jong, on the other hand, is not a traditional defensive midfielder as many categorise him to be. He is a versatile playmaker with a good work rate and is an excellent carrier of the ball. He has in-form forwards in Gakpo and Memphis Depay, which will serve well for the Dutch midfielder because of his vision and ability to find telling passes in the final third.
De Paul has created four chances from open play and has made 29 recoveries, while De Jong has also created four chances and has 26 recoveries. De Jong also has a shot and an assist to his name, while De Paul is looking for his first goal contribution in this World Cup.
Get all the results for the FIFA World Cup 2022 here: Full list of all matches, scores, results, goalscorers
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