Oranje looks to extend 20-game unbeaten streak against Argentina; Croatia shocks Brazil
The Dutch men's national football team is hoping to extend their unbeaten streak under trainer Louis van Gaal with a win over Argentina in the quarterfinals on Friday evening. The Netherlands has won or drawn in 19 consecutive matches dating back to Van Gaal's appointment as the national team's manager. The winner will advance to battle Croatia, who shocked the tournament favorites, Brazil, in a penalty shootout.
Oranje's match against Argentina will start at 10 p.m. local time in the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Qatar, which is two hours ahead of the Netherlands. The Dutch team completed its final training on Thursday with all 26 available players. Steven Bergwijn will be paired with Memphis Depay up front, Bergwijn's first match this tournament as a starter. Cody Gakpo will play behind them, with Davy Klaassen on the reserve bench. With the Argentines, it was unclear Friday morning whether Rodrigo De Paul or Ángel Di María would be available due to injuries, but manager Lionel Scaloni said he believed they would be ready for the match.
The Dutch team's last loss was against the Czech Republic, 0-2, in the Round of 16 during the 2021 European Championship. Frank de Boer was still national coach at the time. Van Gaal started his third tenure with Oranje on 1 September 2021 with a draw against Norway in a World Cup qualifier. The Dutch national team also drew against Montenegro (2-2), Germany (1-1), Poland (2-2) and Ecuador (1-1). The other fourteen matches resulted in a victory. These took place during the current World Cup tournament, the qualifiers leading up to it, the Nations League, and friendlies.
It will be the sixth time that the Netherlands and Argentina meet during a World Cup. The last time was in 2014, when Van Gaal was also national coach. Argentina won that match on penalties after regular time and extra time ended without a goal. As a result, the Netherlands was knocked out of the World Cup that year.
Croatia heads to the World Cup semi-final
The winner of the match will go on to play Croatia, who stunned Brazil in a match earlier on Friday. That game ended in a 1-1 draw, with both goals scored in extra time.
Neymar scored in the last seconds of added time during the first additional 15 minute period. Bruno Petkovic brought Croatia level in the 116th minute, just four minutes before the final whistle. The match then went to penalties, which Croatia won 4-2.
Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, who already saved three penalties against Japan a round earlier, was the star of the show again. On Friday, he stopped Rodrygo's strike. Then Marquinhos struck the post to bring the match to a conclusion, as the Croatians scored on four consecutive penalties.
Argentina the crowd favorite
Thousands of Argentines already took over the area around the Lusail Stadium several hours before the match. Shirts in the national team's blue and white colors could be seen everywhere, often with Lionel Messi's name on it. It is expected that between 40,000 and 50,000 Argentines will be in the stadium, which can accommodate almost 90,000 people. At the event site, it was clear that many migrant workers were also cheering for Messi and Argentina. Earlier in the day, the city center in Doha was already largely blue and white.
About 1,000 supporters of the Netherlands acquired tickets from the Dutch football association KNVB at an earlier stage, and 400 more bought tickets from FIFA this week. The Oranje fans gathered from 3:30 p.m. for a pre-party on the Lusail Boulevard. After the party, the Oranje fans followed the large supporters' bus towards the stadium, as has been a tradition since the 2004 European Championships in Portugal.
A DJ blasted loud party music from the bus. The fans then grouped together behind the bus for a 500-meter march to the stadium at about 5:15 p.m.
The atmosphere on the boulevard and around the stadium was pleasant. The Dutch were clearly in the minority at Lusail. Thousands of Argentines already gathered behind one of the two goals about two hours before the game. A tuft of Oranje fans could be seen in one corner across from them.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times