Netherlands vs Argentina
Lionel Messi has somewhat turned back the clock, with inspired performances at the World Cup highlighting that the 35 year old still has plenty left to offer.
In the shots market, he remains a standout name, one worth keeping an eye on. Messi’s 4.25 shots P/90 result in a fantastic stat of 2.00 shots on target P/90.
Messi is yet to go a game without a shot on target at the World Cup. Despite the jump in quality that the Argentinian’s face against the Dutch, his 2, 4, 1, and 3 shots on target in his 4 games respectively makes for good reading.
As for the Netherlands, they’ve conceded 4.25 shots on target P/90 so far in the World Cup, and if it weren’t for the heroics of towering goalkeeper Andries Noppert, then the Dutch could well have suffered an early exit from the tournament.
Noppert has made 15 saves in just 4 games, a shockingly large number for a nation who were deemed to be comfortably the best side in their group.
Van Gaal’s team have conceded 4, 4, 3, and 6 shots on target in each of their 4 games so far. Against an Argentina side that oozes quality, they can’t afford to be as generous, particularly with Messi roaming about.
With a fully fit and firing Memphis Depay at the helm, the Netherlands will believe that they have every chance of putting the Argentinians to the sword on their way to the semi-finals.
The Barcelona man comfortably tops the shooting charts for his nation. With 4.17 shots P/90, and a subsequent 2.08 shots on target P/90, he’s a constant threat.
Depay has managed an effort on target in each of his 2 starts at this World Cup. 1 from 5 efforts against host nation Qatar, and a further 3 on target against a very competitive USA team, suggests that the Dutchman is really rounding into form. He even managed an effort on target in his 28-minute cameo against Senegal.
With this game likely to be tight, and Depay now fully fit, there’s every chance that he plays a full 90 minutes here, giving him ample time for shots at goal.
Whilst Argentina have kept shot counts against them to a minimum, it’s worth noting that the Dutch present a significant step up in quality compared to who they’ve faced so far.
Even then, both Saudi Arabia, and Australia, managed a goal against the South American’s, whilst the latter were afforded multiple chances late in the game. If Depay is given the same sort of space, he will have efforts at goal.
After what can only be described as a poor performance by De Ligt in the Netherlands opening fixture against Senegal, Ajax centre back Jurrien Timber has cemented his spot on the right of the back 3.
The fact that Timber is yet to receive a card at this tournament comes as somewhat of surprise, particularly when looking at the number of fouls he’s committed.
12 fouls in total for an average of 4.00 P/90 puts him top of the Dutch pile in this department. 3 fouls against a toothless Qatari frontline, 3 against the USA, and a whopping 6 against Ecuador means that Timber is yet to fall below the necessary line of 2 fouls in any of his games.
If Argentina are to start with the same XI that beat Australia, then Timber is likely to come face to face with Papu Gomez. The Argentinian has been fouled 4.17 times P/90, and his quick feet and technical prowess should cause Timber some problems.
Elsewhere, marauding left back Marcos Acuna should present a further issue if allowed to overlap. Fouled 1.85 times P/90, it’s another player for Timber to worry about if he doesn’t receive the necessary support from Dumfries in front of him.
Argentina have only received 2 cards so far this World Cup, and combative left back Marcos Acuna is one of those recipients.
Aggressive, tenacious, hot-headed, all words that are apt in describing the playstyle and demeanor of Acuna on the pitch. His 2.22 fouls P/90 average throughout the tournament is evidence of this.
Sevilla’s left back has made at least 1 foul in every game he’s started. He committed 1 offence against Mexico, 3 in just 71 minutes against Australia, and perhaps the standout stat, Acuna gave away 2 fouls against a Poland side that only managed 28% possession of the ball.
Tonight, Acuna is likely to line up against Dutch wingback Denzel Dumfries.
The narrow shape employed by the Dutch frontline affords Dumfries an incredible amount of time and space out wide. He put in one of the performances of the Tournament against the USA, with a goal and 2 assists, and Acuna will need to pay close attention to him.
If that wasn’t enough, Dumfries is the most fouled player in the Netherlands squad. He’s been fouled 6 times, an average of 1.50 fouls drawn P/90. Both the stats and the eye test suggest this could be a long night for Acuna.