5 things Netherlands must do to beat Argentina in World Cup quarter-finals

The Netherlands took a big step forward in terms of performance against USA, but will need to do so again if they want to beat Argentina.

Although they haven’t performed as well as many had hoped when the tournament began, Lionel Messi and company are showing signs of growth and still have a tremendous amount of skill.

 

 

The Copa America champions won’t be at their best, but the Dutch will be determined to defy the odds and reach the semifinals, as they did in the last two World Cups they participated in.

The previous time, Argentina eliminated Louis van Gaal’s team at that stage by prevailing on penalties after 120 minutes of play.

If the manager wishes to get revenge on his team for that loss eight years ago, they must do the following.

1. Cut off Lionel Messi’s access to supplies

Let’s start by addressing the most obvious issue.

Messi is competent and quite capable of dominating games by himself. The Dutch must make sure he has the ball in those places as little as possible because it will be nearly impossible to stop him from doing so once he has it in a risky area.

Van Gaal achieved this feat in 2014 by having Nigel de Jong adhere to him like glue. Given how successful this strategy was—the PSG player had just one shot in 120 minutes—he’ll probably use it again this time, with Marten de Roon receiving the unenviable task.

To stop Messi, however, you need to do more than merely mark him closely. When he drops deep, the Netherlands’ forwards must close off his passing lanes, and their defenders must be ready for the inevitable times when he does break through.

In that regard, Virgil van Dijk could benefit from Ron Vlaar’s experience. The former Aston Villa player put on a career-best performance in Brazil by making some spectacular tackles on the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.

2. Charge their defensive line.

Three goals in four games is the least amount of goals conceded by the Argentina defense in Qatar.

However, the South American club has so far only faced opponents who were content to sit back and rarely launch quick counterattacks, making life relatively simple for 34-year-old Nicolas Otamendi and company.

There are many reasons to think that if the Dutch forwards attack them more aggressively, they could find some real fun.

Otamendi is getting close to 35 and isn’t as swift or mobile as he once was, and considering that Nahuel Molina and Marcos Acuna are both former wingers, they aren’t exactly the most defensively sound full-backs.

It’s difficult to see any of them holding up well under continual pressure from players like Memphis Depay, Cody Gakpo, and Steven Bergwijn; as a result, Van Gaal ought to think about starting the latter over Davy Klaassen.

The Argentina backline would be compelled to sit deep or risk being exposed on the break against such a fast front three.

3. Use set-pieces to your advantage.

According to our research, Argentina is the shortest team still playing in the World Cup, thus the Dutch should be making opportunities from set pieces given their own roster.

They have Van Dijk, Nathan Ake, and Virgil van Dijk in their starting XI, which makes them incredibly dangerous from the air.

They also have Gakpo, who has a lot of assists from corners at the club level and is one of the penalty crossers in the tournament.

Despite this, the club has yet to score in Qatar, with Gakpo’s dangerous deliveries going unnoticed by his teammates.

Changing that in the quarterfinal may make all the difference in a game that could be determined by the tiniest of margins.

4. Engage Frenkie de Jong in battle

The goal of Argentina will be to silence Frenkie de Jong, much to how the Netherlands will aim to prevent Messi from receiving the ball.

The Barcelona player initiates every assault with his passing and dribbling, and it was at his feet, inside his own box, that his team’s spectacular team goal against the USA was started.

However, no one else on the Dutch team is even close to being able to do what he does, so when they are unable to involve him, they find it difficult to produce much.

Without a doubt, Argentina will be aware of this and will have strategies in place to reduce his influence.

Given that, Van Gaal needs a strategy for handling this, whether it involves moving a player or changing the system as a whole.

Even though changing one player seems drastic, it’s necessary because, if given the ball, he could manage the midfield all by himself.

5. Be prepared to face the big boys

Argentina isn’t the tallest of teams, as we’ve already mentioned, so Van Gaal has one clear option if he needs to score quickly.

Two of the biggest aerial threats in the world are Wout Weghorst and Luuk de Jong, both of whom are well over 6 feet tall.

Van Gaal has previously stated that in a dire situation, he’d think about bringing them both on and throwing crosses into them; in this game, it would be especially effective.

While Lisandro Martinez is far better in the air than some make him out to be, there is no getting around the fact that he is much, much shorter than Weghorst and De Jong if Argentina is defending a lead.

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