World Cup 2022 round of 16: Netherlands vs USA match preview

The winner of Saturday’s match will advance to a quarter-final meeting with either Argentina or Australia.

Netherlands' Frenkie de Jong with coach Louis van Gaal after being substituted
Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong with veteran coach Louis van Gaal [File: John Sibley/Reuters]

Who: Netherlands vs USA
Where: Khalifa International Stadium
When: December 3, 6pm (15:00 GMT)
FIFA ranking: Netherlands (8), USA (16)

The first match of the World Cup’s knockout phase will pit the Netherlands against the USA at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday, with the European side seeking to affirm their credentials as serious challengers in Qatar.

There has been much talk – mostly from the Dutch camp – of the team’s potential to go all the way in the tournament.

Louis van Gaal’s side topped Group A, picking up seven points with 2-0 wins over Senegal and Qatar to go alongside a 1-1 draw against Ecuador.

But despite going unbeaten, the Netherlands’ three performances so far left plenty to be desired with a number of key players yet to fully fire and the side heavily reliant on goals from the in-form Cody Gakpo.

That will offer hope to the Americans, who will be the underdogs but have already offered up some proof of their own potential in an unbeaten run in Group B which saw them secure 0-0 and 1-1 draws against England and Wales respectively and a gritty 1-0 win over Iran to ensure their progress.

Christian Pulisic
The USA will be hoping captain Christian Pulisic will be fit to face the Netherlands [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

USA sweat on Pulisic fitness

While the USA sweat on the fitness of star player Christian Pulisic – he has a pelvic injury and is being assessed daily – coach Gregg Berhalter said his team would have no inferiority complex.

“It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something that we’re going into it thinking is an honour,” Berhalter said. “We deserve to be in the position we’re in. And we want to keep going. We don’t want to be going home on Saturday.

“And from here anything can happen. All we need to do is play one game at a time. There’s no need to even project how far this team can go,” added Berhalter, who has an intimate knowledge of Dutch football. The 49-year-old played in the Dutch league for three different clubs between 1996 and 2000.

For the Netherlands, the key will be to get Memphis Depay flying in attack and Frenkie de Jong on the ball in midfield.

Van Gaal has described them both as indispensable to the Dutch cause.

Memphis Depay
Depay will be critical to the Netherlands’ hopes of mounting a challenge for the World Cup trophy [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Winner to meet Argentina or Australia

Depay says he is over his hamstring injury, having made two substitute appearances and started their last group game.

“I have drawn a line under the questions about fitness,” he told reporters.

“I’m fit. The knockout phase is serious business. We are past the group phase, we can now not afford to slip into it. Many people thought it would be a piece of cake, but it is always a bit different.”

Van Gaal, 71, was keen not to underestimate the opposition.

“I know from experience that matches against countries such as the United States and Australia, who we encountered at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, are always very difficult,” he said. “They are very fanatical and sharp on the ball.”

The winner of the match will advance to a quarter-final meeting with either Argentina or Australia on December 9.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies