World Cup Saturday Preview: The USA look to book second-ever quarterfinal trip with a win against No. 8-ranked Netherlands

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13642244dh) Christian Pulisic of the USA reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2022 group B soccer match between Iran and the USA at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, 29 November 2022. FIFA World Cup 2022 – Group B Iran vs USA, Doha, Qatar – 29 Nov 2022

World Cup Saturday Preview: The USA look to book second-ever quarterfinal trip with a win against No. 8-ranked Netherlands

Who: Netherlands (No. 8) vs. USA (No. 16), Round of 16/Knockout Stage

When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Khalifa International Stadium (Al Rayyan, Qatar)

How the USA got here: The USA used a 1-0 victory over No. 20 Iran on Matchday 3 to earn its first victory of the 2022 World Cup and finish in second place behind England in the final Group B standings. Just six of the 32 total nations in Qatar were able to allow one goal or less during group play, and the Americans were one of them. The Stars and Stripes finished in third place during qualifying play prior to Qatar, and they were one of four teams from CONCACAF to make it to the World Cup alongside Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica. The USA is the only CONCACAF team left standing now, already an impressive showing for a young, talented team also set to be one of three host nations (with Canada and Mexico) for the 2026 World Cup.

How the Netherlands got here: The No. 8-ranked Dutch finished atop the Group A standings with a pair of 2-0 victories over Senegal and host nation Qatar, while drawing 1-1 versus Ecuador in their Matchday 2 contest. Netherlands finished atop the Group G qualifying standings in UEFA and enter the knockout stage in Qatar with high hopes as a nation that finished in the top three in both the 2010 and 2014 editions of the World Cup in South Africa and Brazil. Although the Dutch did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, they bring to Qatar a solid blend of rising young talent via Cody Gakpo of PSV and veteran experience in the midfield via Davvy Klaassen and his savvy passing skills. A loss in the Round of 16 would surely be a disappointment for a team consistently ranked in the top 10 of the world by FIFA over the past few years, although it will be no easy task to advance against a similarly defensive-minded USA team here.

Key stat(s) to know: Just six of the 32 total nations in Qatar were able to allow one goal or less during group play, and the Americans were one of them. One of those other six teams was the USA’s Round of 16 opponent, the Netherlands, which outscored its Group A competition 5-1 over three matches to finish in first place ahead of Senegal, Ecuador and host nation Qatar. 

Player(s) to watch: Cristian Pulisic and Jesús Ferreira. The 24-year-old Pulisic of Chelsea suffered a pelvic contusion on his game-winning goal on Matchday 3 versus Iran and subsequently missed the entire second half of the USA’s 1-0 victory. Pulisic has been cleared to play for Saturday, and the Americans will desperately need his offensive prowess and awareness to help break down what seems to be a nearly impenetrable Dutch defense. Pulisic led the USA with five goals scored in CONCACAF qualifying. Pulisic leads the USA with six total shots through three World Cup matches so far and is tied with Timothy Weah at two shots on goal apiece. He also recorded an assist on the USA’s only other goal of the tournament, which came in its opening 1-1 draw versus Wales. If Pulisic is not at 100% or very close to it, then it will be very difficult to imagine the USA being able to find the net against Holland’s veteran, defensive-minded group. It also remains to be seen if talented 21-year-old striker Jesús Ferreira will make his debut for the Americans at the 2022 World Cup after earning a spot on the final roster for Qatar. Ferreira could provide a much-needed offensive boost to America’s squad.

What to expect: Expect a sound display of disciplined defense and physicality when the USA face No. 8-ranked Netherlands in the Round of 16 on Saturday at 9 a.m. CT at Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar. Both teams allowed just one goal in group play, with the USA’s Tyler Adams leading the way for the Americans with nine tackles won and three interceptions. Adams’ nine tackles ranked second out of 32 nations during group play, behind only Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi, and his 26 total receptions finished tied for third. The 21-year-old Jurriën Timber of the Dutch side has also been a defensive force in his own right, leading a veteran-laden squad with five interceptions. Another young, rising star for the Dutch is Cody Gakpo, a 23-year-old forward from PSV who was one of just four players to score three goals during group play. Gakpo’s offensive presence will be one of the stiffest challenges that the USA has faced so far in Qatar, along with the passing of midfielder Davvy Klaassen, who also tallied two assists during the group stage. This match could simply come down to one mistake, or one missed opportunity via penalty kicks late. It’s tough to imagine either side managing multiple goals here based on their form during group play and the immense pressure of advancing to the quarterfinals. The Netherlands, however, came into the 2022 World Cup with far higher expectations than did the USA, so the Americans should also be both the younger and looser bunch of the two nations in this match. Pulisic’s health, combined with the USA’s offensive struggles thus far, could be the biggest hurdles for the Stars and Stripes to overcome, and a Round of 16 exit certainly would not be a disappointment for a young, rising squad. It could be one more World Cup until the Americans truly show off their soccer skills, as the 2026 World Cup could showcase a USA team in its true prime with Weah, Pulisic and company poised to make a deep run as one of three co-host nations. A second-ever trip to the quarterfinals is not out of the question here, although Netherlands still remain a heavy favorite.

Match history: The Dutch are 4-1 all-time versus the Americans, although the two nations’ most recent meeting resulted in a one-score victory for the Stars and Stripes back in June of 2015. 

World Cup history: The Americans lost to Belgium 2-1 in the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup and dropped a 2-1 decision to Ghana in the Round of 16 in 2014. The last time the USA made it to the quarterfinals was in 2002, when it defeated Mexico 2-0 in the Round of 16 and eventually lost to Germany 1-0 in the quarterfinals. The USA has now advanced from group play in three straight World Cup appearances, although it failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The USA’s Round of 16 opponent holds the record for playing in the most World Cup finals without ever winning in the tournament. The Dutch have been close to glory in recent World Cup tournaments, finishing third in 2014 after losing on penalty kicks to Argentina in the semifinals and finishing second in 2010 after a 1-0 loss to Spain in the finals. 

Chris Dell’s Prediction: Netherlands 1, USA 0

Who: Argentina (No. 3) vs. Australia (No. 38), Round of 16/Knockout Stage

When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium (Al Rayyan, Qatar)

How Argentina got here: The White and Sky Blues of Argentina booked their knockout stage trip with back-to-back convincing victories over both Mexico and Poland in Group C play, the latter coming in a dominant 2-0 win against the Polish where Lionel Messi and crew held a 73% to 27% time of possession edge and walloped Robert Lewandowski’s team in total shots (23 to four), shots on goal (nine to zero), and corner kick opportunities (nine to one). It was the type of dominance that World Cup contenders can only hope for, as Argentina’s Matchday 3 triumph clinched first place in the Group C standings to set up a match with the Socceroos of Australia at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar. Argentina was one of four South American nations to qualify for the World Cup via the CONMEBOL qualifying schedule alongside the likes of Brazil, Uruguay and Ecuador. The Argentinians didn’t lose a single match in 17 games played either, going 11-0-6 with a +19 goal differential in arguably th world’s toughest qualifying continent schedule. Argentina won’t have an easy route to make it back to the finals just like in the 2014 World Cup either. Messi’s side could have a date with No. 8-ranked Netherlands in the quarterfinals, and beyond that a match with CONMEBOL rival and No. 1-ranked Brazil could be waiting in the semi-finals for the No. 3-ranked Argentiniians.

How Australia got here: The Socceroos of Australia rallied for 1-0 victories over both Tunisia and No. 10-ranked Denmark to finish in second place in Group D and advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 2006. Australia was one of five teams to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after participating in the AFC (Asian Cup Qualification) qualifiers along with Iran, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Japan. The Aussies were actually the fifth and final team to qualify from AFC, needing a 0-0 penalty kick victory over Peru to clinch an intercontinental playoff win and make it to the grand stage. Australia has won four of its past five international matches outside of a 4-1 loss to France on Matchday 1. It’s last international loss outside of Qatar in 2022 came all the way back in March, when it dropped scorless decisions to both Japan (2-0) and Saudi Arabia (1-0). Australia has nothing to lose in this match, and at the end of the day that could be the biggest advantage the Aussies have against No. 3-ranked Argentina.

Key Stat(s) to know: Messi clocked in at second amongst all World Cup participants with 13 total shot attempts – and tied for first place with seven “shots on target” – during the group stage, behind only young star Kylian Mbappé of the World Cup champion defending Frenchmen.

Player(s) to watch: Aaron Mooy (Australia) and Ángel Di María (Argentina). Aaron Mooy of Australia sits tied for third in the World Cup with 26 receptions on defense, and he’s played a crucial part in helping the Aussies pitch two shutouts in three matches thus far. Australia has only allowed one team to score so far during the 2022 World Cup, which came via four goals allowed in a demoralizing 4-1 loss to defending champs France on Matchday 1. Since then, however, Mooy and the Aussie backline of defense has stepped up to blank both No. 30-ranked Tunisia, which beat France 1-0 on Matchday 3, as well as No. 10-ranked Denmark. Di Maria of Argentina will surely go down as one of the most storied veteran footballers in Argentine history, but so far in 2022 he’s yet to make his mark. A strong showing by Di María in the knockout stage, coupled with continued success from Messi, could result in one of the most formidable offensive tandems down the stretch. Di María is tied for fourth in the World Cup with six “chances created” through three matches and will certainly draw clean looks and opportunities to find the net with opposing defenses more focusded on Messi from match to match.

What to expect: Lionel Messi’s World Cup swan song marches on, with the Argentinians set for a Round of 16 match against Australia on Saturday at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar. The 35-year-old Messi of PSG looks to continue his striking prowess with another win against the No. 38-ranked Aussies in the first round of the knockout stage. A surprise defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia on Matchday 1 could’ve been all that Argentina needed, believe it or not. Argentina didn’t lose a single match in CONMEBOL South American qualifying and might’ve just gotten the wake-up call it needed after losing to the Saudi Arabians 2-1 in its opening match. Since then, Argentina has rallied for back-to-back wins by combined score of 4-0 against two top-20-ranked teams in Mexico and Poland, and it will only get tougher from here if this side is to truly make a deep run in Messi’s supposed final World Cup appearance. Look for Argentina’s superior talent shine through here clearly on both of sides the ball, and for its defense to continue playing at the same elite level as it did during its qualifying campaign.

Match history: Argentina is 5-1-1 against Australia in seven all-time matches, although the two nations haven’t faced each other in almost 15 years. Australia’s only win against Argentina came in the nations’ first-ever meeting, a 4-1 victory for the Aussies in 1988 at the Bicentennial Gold Cup. Australia will be heavy underdogs by pundits and the public alike, although it won’t be much different from what the Socceroos are seemingly already used to after facing off against a desperate Denmark side on Matchday 3. Australia is 0-3 all-time in its last three meetings with heavily-favored Argentina, although the two nations haven’t met on the pitch since 2008 when the Argentinians scored a 1-0 win in the 2008 Men’s Olympic Tournament, Argentina is 3-0 in the nations’ past three matches, having won in 2007 and 2005 at the FIFA Confederation’s Cup.

World Cup history: This will be Argentina’s fifth straight appearance in the knockout stage. The White and Sky Blues were eliminated by eventual champion France in the Round of 16 in 2018, and it made it all the way to the World Cup finals before a 1-0 loss to eventual champion Germany in 2014. Australia, after missing the World Cup from 1978 to 2002, are in the midst of its fifth consecutive World Cup campaign. The Aussies made the Round of 16 in 2006 before a 1-0 loss to eventual champion Italy, and a quarterfinal appearance here would be their first-ever time winning a knockout stage match. This is just the second time making the Round of 16 in Australian soccer history in four total World Cup appearances since its first in 1974.
Chris Dell’s Prediction: Argentina 2, Australia 0

Round of 16/Knockout Stage Schedule

Saturday, Dec. 3

  • Who: Netherlands (No. 8) vs. USA (No. 16)
  • When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Khalifa International Stadium (Al Rayyan, Qatar)
  • Who: Argentina (No. 3) vs. Australia (No. 38)
  • When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Ahmad bin Ali Stadium (Al Rayyan, Qatar)

Sunday, Dec. 4

  • Who: France (No. 4) vs. Poland (No. 26)
  • When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Al Thumama Stadium (Doha, Qatar)
  • Who: England (No. 5) vs. Senegal (No. 18)
  • When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Al Bayt Stadium (Al Khor, Qatar)

Monday, Dec. 5

  • Who: Japan (No. 24) vs. Croatia (No. 12)
  • When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Al Janoub Stadium (Al Wakrah, Qatar)
  • Who: Brazil (No. 1) vs. South Korea (No. 28)
  • When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Stadium 974 (Doha, Qatar)

Tuesday, Dec. 6

  • Who: Morocco (No. 22) vs. Spain (No. 7)
  • When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Education City Stadium (Doha, Qatar)
  • Who: Portugal (No. 9) vs. Switzerland (No. 15)
  • When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Lusail Iconic Stadium (Lusail, Qatar)

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