Lionel Messi’s FIFA World Cup chase takes centrestage in quarterfinal clash against van Gaal’s Netherlands : The Tribune India

Argentina needs its Messiah

Lionel Messi’s FIFA World Cup chase takes centrestage in quarterfinal clash against van Gaal’s Netherlands

Lionel Messi’s FIFA World Cup chase takes centrestage in quarterfinal clash against van Gaal’s Netherlands

One can expect a mouth-watering battle between Lionel Messi. Reuters



DOHA, December 8

Lionel Messi up against Virgil van Dijk. The youngest coach at the World Cup taking on the oldest. South America versus Europe. A back catalogue of famous meetings.

The quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands has all the ingredients of a classic. And the possibility of it being Messi’s final game on football’s biggest stage just adds to the anticipation. The seven-time world player of the year is three wins away from achieving his ultimate dream but he has two people, in particular, blocking his path.

Netherlands’ captain Virgil van Dijk. Reuters

First, the not inconsiderable frame of van Dijk, who has been one of the world’s best defenders over the past five years. If there’s anyone able to stop Messi on one of his trademark dribbles, it is the graceful Liverpool centre-back who combines pace with a great reading of the game.

And then there’s Louis van Gaal, the wily tactician who is 71, has recently undergone successful treatment for prostate cancer, and is now plotting to win the World Cup in perhaps the final job of his 26-year coaching career.

Van Gaal, who has long been one of the most charismatic characters in soccer, is approaching this task with a lot of fun — even on the eve of one of the biggest matches of his career.

Today, he was told that Angel Di Maria, who plays for Argentina, thinks he is the worst coach he has ever played under following their time together at Manchester United in 2014-15.

Van Gaal said it was a pity Di Maria felt this way — “he is one of the few players to have said that,” he remarked, “as usually it is the other way round” — and added he once had a falling-out with Netherlands captain Memphis Depay, who was sitting next to him. “Now we kiss each other,” van Gaal said, leaning toward Depay with his arms out.

Van Gaal was also asked how he was planning to stop Messi — a question for which many coaches down the years have failed to come up with an answer. “It’d be pretty stupid to reveal your own tactics,” he said, smiling. “But it’s not that difficult to come up with any answer. You could have come up with an answer yourself. You may want to block and close the passing lines. Am I right, Memphis?”

As for his Argentina counterpart, the 44-year-old Lionel Scaloni is a comparative novice after taking charge of his country in 2018 for his first senior coaching role. Yet, he led Argentina to the Copa America title last year. — AP

19A stupendous run of form has seen Netherlands go 19 games without defeat since van Gaal returned to the hot seat for a third spell 15 months ago

6This will be the sixth World Cup meeting between the two countries, the first being a 4-0 win for the Dutch in 1974 and the last two having ended goalless in 2006 and 2014

#europe #Lionel Messi #United States of America USA

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