Netherlands vs Argentina: Where the battle will be won

Lusail Stadium, 12:30pm (Sat)

Van Dijk must captivate Messi

The Orange will have to push Argentina to the flanks to nullify the offensive threat

Average age: Netherlands: 27.4; Argentina: 27.8

Of average height: Netherlands: 6’8”; Argentina: 5’8” Weight

Probably from 11

Netherlands: 3-5-2

no topper; Wood, Van Dijk, Ake; Dumfries, Roon, De Jong, Blind, Klaasen; Gakpo, Depay

Argentina: 4-3-3

Martinez; Acuna, Otamendi, Romero, Molina; Allister, Fernandez, De Paul; Gomez, Messi, Alvarez

Defining area: flanks

As against Poland, Mexico and Australia, Argentina will try to control the process, while the Netherlands – as against the US – likes to sit back and look for opportunities to attack them on the counter.

This means the Orange will once again play a 5-3-2 system while defending, leaving no room for Argentina in the center of the field, forcing them into larger areas. This will be critical for two main reasons: if the central areas fill up, Messi could be forced to play in a withdrawn role to help with the build-up. For Virgil van Dijk & Co. does that mean they don’t have to constantly deal with Messi’s menacing presence in the attacking third.

Second, they will force Argentina to do something they are not comfortable with: attack from the flanks. Although they have good wingers and use larger areas by overloading the flanks, it has been done with the intention of drawing in the opposing midfielders to create space in the center from which to launch attacks.

On the other hand, the Dutch rely a lot on their wingers and fullbacks to create scoring opportunities. So while they hope to smother Argentina in the centre, the Netherlands will try to use the width to their advantage.

Main fight: Van Dijk vs Messi

It will simply be a battle between perhaps the best central defender of the moment in the world against the best striker of this generation.

Messi has turned back the clock with some sublime performances in the tournament. And he didn’t just do that by scoring goals. Messi has been used as bait by Lionel Scaloni, a ploy to attract opponents to create space for his team-mates in the centre, where Julian Alvarez is also a constant threat.

For Van Dijk, the challenge will be not only to keep a close eye on Messi, but also to follow his attacker and watch out for the quick movements in the penalty area.

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