DOHA: The distinctive orange or blue and white striped shirts of these teams are enough to bring back memories of previous World Cups, and more World Cup history will undoubtedly be made on Friday when the Netherlands take on Argentina in their quarterfinal.
Argentina is proud to have won the world championship twice, while the Netherlands has the burden of losing three finals in a row.
The match, which pits one of the greatest strikers of all time against one of the best defenders of the modern era, is far from a nostalgic extravaganza. Lionel Messi will be trying to break down Virgil van Dijk’s Liverpool defense.
Additionally, the game puts the tournament’s youngest manager against the oldest.
Lionel Scaloni, the 44-year-old coach of Argentina, will need to outwit the cunning Louis van Gaal, the 71-year-old Dutchman with a résumé that includes league titles with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Ajax, in his first major event.
The South Americans entered the competition as usual with great aspirations for a win to rival those celebrated in their home countries in 1978 and 1986. In contrast, the Dutch had more realistic goals considering their failure to qualify four years prior.
Despite being criticized for being boring, the Dutch have made easy progress in Qatar. They won their group and then defeated the United States in the round of 16, doing it with some ease and style while looking sturdy at the back.
The Dutch now have a punch to their assault that many feared would be absent thanks to Cody Gakpo’s strong tournament and Memphis Depay’s steadily increasing fitness.
Argentina started the competition with one of the biggest surprises in World Cup history—a shocking loss to Saudi Arabia—but came back to win the group. Then, as they defeated Australia to secure their spot in the round of eight, Messi stepped up the flair.
Van Gaal, who has won the Ballon d’Or seven times, naturally views Messi’s brilliance as a significant threat, but he raised some eyebrows when he also alluded to the seven-time winner’s lack of defensive effort.
“Messi is the most dangerous creative player because of how much he can produce and how many goals he can score. However, when they lose the ball, he doesn’t play as much, which provides us opportunities “he declared.
Given their history, it is surprising that Argentina has never defeated the Netherlands in a World Cup or friendly match after 90 minutes.
But for Van Gaal, who was in command of the Netherlands at the time, it is their victory on penalties in the semi-final in Sao Paulo in 2014 that stays in his memory.
While Messi was neutralized by the Netherlands in that match, Van Gaal stated that it didn’t matter much because the Argentines advanced after a shootout, ending the Dutch hope of eventually winning the World Cup.
For Dutch supporters, the 1998 World Cup holds a more pleasant memory because Dennis Bergkamp’s spectacular last-second goal sealed a 2-1 victory and a spot in the round of eight.
Bergkamp is just one of the many outstanding athletes the Netherlands has produced since they first gained international recognition in the 1970s thanks to a team led by the brilliant Johan Cruyff.
The Dutch came in second place in both 1974 and 1978, losing the latter final to hosts Argentina by a score of 3-1. They are regarded as one of the best teams that have never won the World Cup.
Since then, the Dutch have played with superior technical ability and cunning tactics, but World Cup victory has eluded them, with only the 1988 European Championship triumph providing some solace.
The current iteration of the team in orange lacks a player of the caliber of Bergkamp, Cruyff, or Marco van Basten. Possibly the only tall center-half worth comparing in terms of class is Van Dijk.
However, the Argentines anticipate facing a well-drilled team that hasn’t appeared to be in too much trouble thus far in this tournament. They know their football history and their troubles with the Netherlands.
Although it isn’t as good as earlier Dutch teams, Scaloni said that they are very focused on what they do. “This will be a fantastic game between two legendary teams.”