The quarter-finals beckon as two football titans confront Friday night at Lusail Stadium.
We have an ingenious set of matches heading into the Quarter Finals of this quadrennial mega event. As we round up towards the business end of World Cup 2022, many fans around the globe have already rooted for their teams to go on and cheer loud for their team as to who will go on and pick up this glorious trophy. But what a mouth watering clash we have in store for us in the first Quarter Final tie between Netherlands and Argentina. Here’s a look at the best possible XI that you could make out of both the teams:
Emiliano Martínez (Goalkeeper, Aston Villa)
His heroics have been admired since the Copa America edition of 2021 when he stepped up and made a series of penalty saves against Columbia. Since then, there has been no looking back for him. Argentina were in dire straits against Australia and he pulled off a big save at the 97th minute to help them win 2-1 and make it through to the Quarter Finals. Finally, standing at a height of 1.95 m, he will have many more clutch moments where he will to defend his nation’s colours just like he has dyed his hair in blue and white.
Denzel Dumfries (Right Back, Inter Milan)
Having had a goal and 2 assists in the Round of 16 tie against USA, Inter Milan will have to set their prices high in the upcoming January transfer window if they are to retain him. Memphis Depay has stayed on the shoulders of the opposition defence most of the times and this allows him to deliver teasing crosses into the box for Memphis and others to drive in and net the ball back home. Even more difficult to get past him down the right hand side, Dumfries provides a stability to Van Gaal’s defence adding to his blistering pace and ability to chase down balls protecting the centre backs.
Virgil Van Dijk (Centre Back, Liverpool)
Flourishing more in the 3-4-3 system, he seems to have nicely settled in the 3-4-1-2 formation that Louis Van Gaal is playing. His anticipation is what makes him a proactive defender and not a reactive one. When the full-back Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind are out of positions, he actively reads the situations and gets ahead of the striker to intercept the ball. Having helped the Dutch scratch out two clean sheets in four games, he has made 22 recoveries and his team have conceded only twice. He is also ever reliant on the ball which helps the Dutch to build up their attack from the back. He will have a huge role to play if Netherlands hope to go down to the wire in this competition.
Nicolas Otamendi (Centre Back, Benfica)
His influence was pretty minimal in the first game of the tournament against Saudi Arabia when Argentina succumbed to a 1-0 defeat, but boy did he step up well!! Acing out brilliant tackles and making crucial recoveries against Australia, Mexico and Poland, he has kept this Argentinian defence intact. Though he is relatively much older and experienced than the likes of Romero and Lisandro Martinez, his game awareness seems to be improving day by day.
Daley Blind (Left back, Ajax)
He has got to be one of the smartest left backs in the world at this moment. In his pomp, he doesn’t have to edge out last moment tackles as he seems to win the ball 6 yards earlier up the pitch. His versatility makes him even better as he can also play as a make shift centre back and defensive midfielder when needed. The lack of pace in his game is never visible, his passing range is immaculate and he also has the vision of a proper playmaker while running down the left flank. He also has a crucial goal in his name in the Round of 16 tie against USA.
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Frenkie De Jong (Central Midfielder, Barcelona)
You don’t expect these guys to go on a blank run of form for long, do you? The magnificent midfielder has had his say with a solitary goal against the hosts Qatar in their final group stage game and a remarkable assist in their opener against Senegal. With his guile and sensible style of play, the Flying Dutchman have eased through to the Quarter Finals. He also recorded a mammoth 89% pass completion rate which portrays his ability to dominate the midfield.
Alexis Mac Allister (Central Midfielder, Brighton & Hove Albion)
He has been rock solid at the heart of midfield and acted as a shield in front of the back four leaving Leandro Paredes behind in the starting line up of Argentina. Averaging 58 passes per game, what has impressed everyone is his control over the ball and distributions. The 23-year-old has been flawless so far in the tournament. His world-class goal against Poland in the final group stage fixture was an icing on the cake which guaranteed their qualification as Group winners.
Cody Gakpo (Right Winger, PSV Eindhoven)
This young sensation has already seized the tournament by the scruff of the neck. After his goal against the hosts Qatar he became the first player to score in all three group stage matches in this World Cup. A header vs Senegal, a left footed finish against Ecuador and a right footed finish against Qatar, this juvenile talent seems to have it all. Van Gaal is mostly using him as a number 9 nowadays but he is a right winger by trait. He seems to be a fore runner for the Golden Boot challenging the likes of Mbappe and Messi.
Lionel Messi (Central Attacking Midfielder, PSG)
Age is just a number for this man. Wriggling through defences for fun and scoring out of impossible situations, he just doesn’t seem to stop. He broke the dead lock against the resilient Mexicans when the game hung tightly in the balance. Also he repeated the same feat against Australia and scored his 789th career goal in what happened to be his 1000th match. A man on a mission, he is surely going to be spelling more magic as the tournament goes on.
Memphis Depay (Left Winger, Barcelona)
Talk about rejuvenating your career. Manchester United, AS Roma and Tottenham Hotspur have already started placing bids to get him onboarded in their team. With an efficient work rate on and off the ball, he still has the knack of scoring and serving delectable assists to his teammates. He scored his 43rd international goal for the Dutch against USA. This makes him the second highest goal scorer for Netherlands behind Robin Van Persie (50). Finally, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter praised him by saying “We don’t have a Memphis Depay!” after they were annihilated by the Dutch in their 3-1 loss in the Round of 16.
Julian Alvarez (Centre-Forward, Manchester City)
Also known as (The Spider), he is known for his pressing, dynamic scoring ability, and link-up play. Also, he has been fantastic in limited minutes for Manchester City and now he is starting to show his mettle in the international game for Argentina.
As a prodigious talent who had a trial at Real Madrid before joining River Plate, Álvarez has often been categorized as a striker who has shown a great deal of versatility either on the wing or dropping off as a centre-forward. Finally, having two starts and two goals against Poland and the Socceroos, he seems to be born to deliver on the grandest stage.