Lionel Messi and Argentina are three games away from winning the World Cup, but will face their toughest test of the tournament so far against the Netherlands.
Friday’s quarter-finals at Lusail Stadium will be a fascinating matchup, especially given the World Cup history between the two teams.
The last time they met in the semi-finals was eight years ago, in a goalless game that ended in Argentina winning on penalties. Prior to that, his two knockouts in the 1998 quarterfinals (best remembered for Dennis Bergkamp’s sensational winning goal) and his 1978 final were contesting his games. When Argentina won the World Cup for the first time.
In the Netherlands, Louis van Gaal is back as manager and veteran left-back Daley Blindt is still an important part of the national team, Messi. is Argentina’s talisman and remains the most powerful attack threat.
Much of the spotlight will, as ever, fall on the 35-year-old Messi, who has been central to some of Argentina’s greatest moments in the competition so far.
Messi has been at the heart of this Argentine side even in the twilight of his career, with three goals, including a spectacular strike against Mexico and a spectacular move against Australia, as well as one assist in four games. .
“At this point in his career, he’s an old genius,” sports scientist Simon Brandish told CNN Sport. “He doesn’t have the ability to run. [Paulo] Team Dybala will, but he’s a genius and will win your match.
In fact, all eyes are on how far Messi walked during Argentina’s match at the World Cup.
For example, in Round 16 against Australia, he walked 4,752.7 meters. This, according to FIFA, he has walked 300 meters more than anyone else on the pitch.
“If you look at Messi clearly, when they have the ball, you can see he’s in space,” explained Brandish, adding that the amount of walking Messi does speaks to Argentina’s defensive organization. rice field.
“Argentina has set up a system around him not engaging with the press,” Brandish said. “Anyway, they’re not a team under pressure…it wasn’t part of Messi’s game and his role doesn’t include it.”
Both teams have experienced blips in Qatar, with Argentina suffering a surprise defeat to Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands drawing to Ecuador. Both teams hope to reach the last four for the first time since his 2014 debut.
The Netherlands continued to impress with Cody Gakpo, who scored three goals at the World Cup, and Memphis Depay, who made a great move against the USA in the last 16.
But Argentina hopes its master playmaker can add to his goals tally by unlocking the Dutch three-back defense.
Midfielder Alexis Mack Allister told reporters on Thursday, “Leo surprises you every day with what he does.” is important to.”
But Messi is not alone in this Argentinian team. Midfielder Enso his Fernandes and striker Julián his Alvarez have had impressive campaigns, while goalkeeper Emiliano his Martinez has made important saves especially against Australia.
“It’s not me or the Netherlands with Messi, it’s the Netherlands with Argentina,” Dutch international Virgil van Dijk told reporters this week, according to Reuters. They’re a fantastic team with fantastic players and they have to do well in all areas of the game.”
Van Gaal’s side, who failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament after losing three times in the last World Cup final, could feel a sense of unfinished business in Qatar.
Data insights company Nielsen has named Argentina a 58% favorite in the quarterfinals, but neither team had a chance to face one of the tournament’s top teams.
But that is about to change. The winner of Friday’s match is likely to face Brazil in the semifinals, but the five-time champion will need to beat Croatia in the quarterfinals first.
Brazil v Croatia: 10am ET at Education City Stadium
Argentina v Netherlands: 2pm ET at Lusail Stadium
USA: Fox Sports
UK: BBC or ITV
Brazil: Sports TV
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
South Africa: SABC