Expected to advance from their last 16 ties, the Netherlands and Argentina avoided further upsets in this World Cup of shock results by seeing off USA and Australia respectively. They meet for the sixth time in football’s blue-riband competition, and the first since their semi-final showdown in 2014, which Albiceleste won on penalties.
In what will be Louis van Gaal’s Oranje swan song before Ronald Koeman succeeds him post-Qatar, the former Manchester United boss is looking to have one final crack at winning the World Cup — and the early signs are promising. The Dutch navigated an awkward Group A before blunting USA’s ambitions, but this match-up will be the real acid test.
Argentina have flattered to deceive at times this tournament, infamously losing to Saudi Arabia and just about getting the job done against Mexico, but with the unnatural talent of Lionel Messi, Lionel Scaloni has a get-out-of-jail-free card that has worked a treat in Qatar.
The diminutive genius scored the breakthrough goals against Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Australia and looks every bit as good as the Messi we’ve all come to idolise. Twinkle-toed and ethereal, the 35-year-old looks like he means business on the Persian Gulf.
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Netherlands vs Argentina match stats
The reliance on Messi this tournament for Argentina has been naturally predictable. Even at 35, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has been bailing the nation out of trouble with three deadlock-breakers, while he has now won more official FIFA Man of the Match awards (eight) than any other player in the competition’s history. He is the catalyst, goal-getter and difference-maker. Those three strikes places him as joint-second-top scorer at the 2022 World Cup, while he is also one of just two players with double digits for shots on target (10), alongside Kylian Mbappe (also 10). Andries Noppert can expect a busy night, but the Dutch goalkeeper backs himself to perform – especially if it comes to penalties.
“I’m always ready for that, and he can also miss, we saw it at the beginning of this tournament,” Noppert told reporters.
“So he’s the same like us – a human. For sure he’s good, but for sure I can catch the penalties.”
Interestingly, these two nations have met quite regularly at the World Cup, which is no doubt a by-product of their collective status as traditional heavyweights. The last three meetings have all been cagey affairs, with under 1.5 goals, including two 0-0s. Those both came in the 2014 World Cup, with Argentina winning 4-2 on penalties and the 2006 World Cup groups. Given the talent available, these two nations have been matched fairly evenly over the years, which may explain why this has been a rather low-scoring affair in recent times — this may be another contest decided by the thinnest of margins.
9 July 2014 – Netherlands 0-0 (2-4 on penalties) Argentina – World Cup
21 June 2006 – Netherlands 0-0 Argentina – World Cup
12 February 2003 – Netherlands 1-0 Argentina – International Friendly
31 March 1999 – Netherlands 1-1 Argentina – International Friendly
4 July 1998 – Netherlands 2-1 Argentina – World Cup
That 2014 World Cup semi-final was a memorable one as it was Van Gaal’s second tour of duty as Oranje boss as he led the nation to third. His precocious side, which included the likes of Memphis Depay and Daley Blind — two players who have been instrumental this tournament — battled well against Argentina, but the South Americans came through on penalties — with Messi, of course, scoring his nation’s opener.