Criticism of Louis van Gaal as a "conservative coach" is unfair, according to Arsene Wenger, who believes the Netherlands boss will "gamble" when required.

Van Gaal has led the Oranje to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in his third stint in the job, beating the United States 3-1 on Saturday.

The Netherlands also reached the semi-finals under the former Ajax and Barcelona coach in 2014, before missing out on qualification for Russia 2018 in his absence.

Wenger, leading FIFA's technical study group, therefore believes Van Gaal deserves more leeway as his style of play in this tournament is scrutinised.

After finishing top of Group A, Van Gaal told journalists to go home if the Netherlands' football was "terribly boring", as the accusation had been.

"I would not classify Louis van Gaal as a conservative coach," Wenger said on Sunday. "I believe he has done remarkable work in his life and have a big respect for what he has delivered.

"He is a bit more cautious until now in the game. I agree with you because Dutch football, I have to give them credit, historically, they've always been attacking.

"In this competition, the numbers of possession is a bit less. That's it.

"I don't know if he plays deliberately conservatively or whether he does that to be more efficient. But at the moment, it works for him.

"And I wouldn't judge the potential for the Dutch until now. I think he knows. Van Gaal has huge experience.

"And I was thinking last night this guy, he comes back and he's in the quarter-final again. He's in the last eight with Holland, and before he came back, Holland had struggled.

"So, he has something special to carry the belief of a team, always to find the places in the tournament, and I have a huge respect for that.

"Let's see how he develops his capabilities as well to go for a gamble. If the game is tied later on in the match, I'm convinced [he will]."

Virgil van Dijk said Manchester United are not "at the same level" as Real Madrid as he offered transfer advice to his in-form Netherlands team-mate Cody Gakpo.

PSV forward Gakpo scored in each of the Netherlands' three group-stage games and played alongside Van Dijk as the Dutch defeated the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

With nine goals in 14 Eredivisie games this season, Gakpo's stock has continued to rise in Qatar and rumours of a switch to United have exacerbated since the Red Devils terminated the contract of Cristiano Ronaldo.

LaLiga heavyweights Madrid have also been registered with an interest, while Liverpool are also reportedly monitoring the situation.

Van Dijk has no doubt Gakpo is ready to take the next step in his career but offered a cheeky dig at Liverpool's rivals when speaking to reporters after the USA game.

"Are Manchester United and Real Madrid on the same level? No disrespect, not at all," he said.

"I definitely think he has that next step in him. I definitely feel like it could happen, whether that is in the winter or the summer or next year, time will tell. 

"He is a great boy who works hard, very talented and definitely there is more in him. We are so pleased he is doing so well for us. Long may it continue."

Gakpo did little to quell rumours of a January move when speaking to De Telegraaf about his future last week.

"As it stands now, I will still be playing for PSV after the winter break," he said. "But, as I said before the start of the World Cup, we will see what will happen."

Memphis Depay has taken a swipe at ex-NBA star and American TV analyst Charles Barkley following the Netherlands' 3-1 win over the United States in the World Cup round of 16 on Saturday.

Depay opened the scoring in the victory, which came after Barkley had started trash talk in the lead-up to the knockout stage clash.

Barkley said on NBA on TNT: "We're going for the Netherlands. We opening up a can of whoop-a** 'cause I guarantee the Netherlands is in trouble."

The official Dutch team Twitter account responded with a hype video of Barkley's quotes shortly prior to kick-off with Barcelona attacker having the last laugh.

"Lotta bark, no bite," Depay posted on Twitter only a few hours after the game, with an image of a forlorn-looking Barkley under the 3-1 scoreline.

The victory means the Netherlands will take on Argentina in the quarter-finals, while the USA's World Cup is over.

Matthijs de Ligt has no issues with being left out of Louis van Gaal's starting line-up for the Netherlands' past three games as he "expected to play nothing" at this World Cup.

De Ligt came on as a 93rd-minute substitute in the Netherlands' 3-1 win over the United States in Saturday's last-16 encounter.

That marked the 23-year-old's first appearance for the Oranje since starting in their World Cup opener, the 2-0 win over Senegal, having been demoted to the bench by Van Gaal for the ensuing three games.

"It's not so frustrating, honestly," De Ligt told The Athletic. "Every player wants to play but we are a group of 26 players.

"Honestly, I have played more than I expected to play at this World Cup. I expected to play nothing. I'm quite okay. We won together and we are in a quarter-final."

The defender, who has established himself at Bayern Munich since his off-season switch from Juventus, has seen Ajax 21-year-old Jurrien Timber take his place alongside Nathan Ake and Virgil van Dijk in Van Gaal's back three.

"No, it's just the way of playing," De Ligt replied when asked if injury was behind his non-selection. "Maybe the coach doesn't put me in the team and I am okay with that. I expected it.

"So for me it's fine. I know my role and I train hard every day to be important for the team."

Meanwhile, Van Dijk backed 23-year-old Netherlands team-mate Cody Gakpo to take the next step in his career.

Gakpo, who scored in all three of the Dutch's World Cup group-stage wins, has been linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid.

"Are Manchester United and Real Madrid the same level at this moment? No disrespect, not at all," Liverpool defender Van Dijk told The Athletic.

"I think he definitely has a next step in him. I definitely feel like it could happen. Whether it happens in the winter or next year, time will tell.

"But he's a great boy. Works hard, is very talented and there's definitely more in him. We are very pleased he's doing so well and long may it continue."

Gakpo would not be drawn on his future after the win over USA, while United defender Tyrell Malacia backed him to step up should an opportunity arise.

"He's good enough for the top, there's no doubt," Malacia said.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni said his players were born to handle high-pressure World Cup contests after Lionel Messi led them to a 2-1 win over Australia in the last 16.

Messi scored his ninth World Cup goal – and his first in a knockout tie – as Argentina edged out Australia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Saturday, with Julian Alvarez also getting on the scoresheet following a mistake from Mathew Ryan.

Argentina will now face the Netherlands for a semi-final place on Friday, a prospect which appeared unlikely when they began their campaign with a stunning defeat to Saudi Arabia 11 days ago.

Asked how the Albiceleste had managed to turn their tournament around, Scaloni said: "What I said before the Mexico match was that these guys were born to play these games.

"Argentina have played three games which were very intense, where being knocked out was a reality. But these players are capable. Sometimes the urgency and anxiety makes you feel different.

"Even if things happen like the Saudi Arabia game or the Australia goal today, we have to keep believing in our football. 

"There is no pressure in football, that's how I see it. Pressure is something else.

"If you've watched Argentina today, these are memories which will stay with you forever. You've seen these young players, and also Leo, playing beautifully."

The next hurdle for Argentina to overcome will be a heavyweight tussle with the nation they beat in both the 1978 World Cup final and the 2014 semi-finals.

While Scaloni acknowledges the Oranje's current crop may not be as easy on the eye as some of their predecessors, he expects a tough test against Louis van Gaal's men.

Asked about Van Gaal's qualities, Scaloni said: "I was a young player at Deportivo La Coruna when he was coaching at Barcelona. He's a great coach and many have to try to take a page from his book. It's a pleasure to face him at a World Cup.

"Today we saw the Netherlands match. They probably don't play as beautifully as some older Dutch teams, but they have very strong points that they will try to use.

"It will be a beautiful game between two historic national teams, and one will be knocked out, unfortunately."

Argentina are hopeful of receiving a fitness boost ahead of Friday, with Scaloni revealing Angel Di Maria – who was an unused substitute on Saturday after suffering a thigh injury – could return.

"I didn't think we were going to help anyone by bringing him on today," he said of Di Maria. "We hope that in the next few days he keeps evolving and he can make it for the next match."

The United States must be proud of their efforts at the World Cup in Qatar, but Christian Pulisic insisted the team "don't want to feel like this again."

A 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha saw the USA knocked out of the competition on Saturday.

While the Dutch had a quarter-final against either Australia or Argentina to look forward to, the USA's focus will now turn to developing their young squad further ahead of the 2026 edition.

That tournament will be co-hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico, and feature 48 countries, and Pulisic wants to see a team with title-winning quality.

"Right now, it's just tough, you know? It hurts, after a tough loss like that, we feel like we could have had more," he said.

"It's another experience for all these guys, moments that we can be proud of. We don't want to feel like this again. We want to put ourselves in a position to win tournaments like this."

Pulisic missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring three minutes into the game, seeing a close-range attempt saved by Andries Noppert.

In contrast, Memphis Depay slotted away the Netherlands' first big opportunity, with Daley Blind making it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time.

"It happened so early in the game, and he made a good save," said Pulisic, who assisted Haji Wright for the USA's goal, which was swiftly cancelled out by Denzel Dumfries at the other end.

"They defended well for the most part, but I think when their first kind of two real chances went down, they just cut back, execute it, finish.

"We were down 2-0, but it didn't feel like it should be that way. But that's what good teams do."

USA coach Gregg Berhalter is approaching the end of his contract, and did not give much clarity over what his future holds.

Antonee Robinson, however, hopes Berhalter continues in the role as the USA look to build towards 2026.

"I hope so," said the Fulham full-back. "He's given a lot of boys a chance to develop with this group, and I feel like this whole time we've shown the type football we can play."

Netherlands players shrugged off criticism about their style of play from supporters after seeing off the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

The Oranje have attracted flak from fans and media due to the brand of football and system used by Louis van Gaal, with their classic 'Total Football' approach and 4-3-3 formation discarded.

Van Gaal prefers to deploy a back three and puts an emphasis on making the Netherlands difficult to break down, aiming to hit teams on the counter-attack.

His system was reasonably effective against the USA at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday, with the Netherlands soaking up pressure and catching Gregg Berhalter's men on the break.

The Netherlands were 2-0 up at half-time, and although they came under more threatening pressure in the second half with the USA pulling one back, Denzel Dumfries – who set up the first two – capped off a strong individual performance to finish the Americans off.

Fans and media alike will still probably find reasons to criticise Van Gaal's men, but for Dumfries their performance vindicated the system.

"There's a lot of criticism because we are used to it [a certain style of play], we are good on the ball," he said. "Normally we play 4-3-3, but we play a different system [now].

"But the goals today… this is everything. I gave an assist for the other full-back, Daley Blind, and he gave an assist to me, so today we showed the quality of the system.

"In the Netherlands we are used to having the ball, playing with possession. This is a different way of playing and I also understand the criticism because we can play much better with the ball, create more chances.

"But you see when we get the ball, we have qualities on the counter, very fast strikers, and it's also a strength of ours. We have to focus now to continue to make the system work perfectly."

Nathan Ake sympathised somewhat with the Netherlands' critics, even agreeing with assessments about the Oranje perhaps failing to impress despite topping Group A.

But like Dumfries, the Manchester City defender believes the defeat of the USA showed how effective Van Gaal's system can be.

It was put to him that winning is all that matters, to which he replied: "It is, it is, but sometimes I think playing well helps getting the result.

"In the first few games we were a little lucky sometimes with how we got the goals or how we played, we could've conceded, but today I think we were much more solid defensively but also attacking wise, we created so many more chances.

"I think the first few games [the critics] were right. We didn't play our best football, but we knew from inside the camp that we got the points; played bad but got the points and qualified first.

"We knew we had to play better. I think today we showed much more [of] what we can do, play through spaces.

"Sometimes we had to defend a bit more, but we know we are very dangerous on the counter-attack and we haven't shown that in the last games. Today, we showed that."

The Netherlands will play either Argentina or Australia at Lusail on Friday in their quarter-final.

Cody Gakpo and Denzel Dumfries have both made it clear their focus is on their World Cup exploits with the Netherlands amid ongoing speculation regarding their futures.

Both featured as the Dutch beat the United States 3-1 in their last-16 clash in Qatar on Saturday, with Dumfries recording a goal and two assists.

PSV forward Gakpo has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, and may have attracted further suitors after scoring in each of his first three World Cup appearances.

"To be honest, I'm not thinking about that now, I'm really focused on the tournament," he told reporters after the win over the USA.

"I try to keep performing well, keep helping the team, hopefully when we become world champion we can think about it."

Asked whether his future was a distraction, he added: "No not really because I just keep trying to stay focused, and the other players don't really talk about this sort of thing, and they help me also in this situation."

Dumfries is another player who has attracted speculation, and his performance against the USA would have only served to strengthen any interest.

Chelsea are among the clubs linked with a move for Dumfries, though the Inter right-back made it clear he is happy to continue in Milan when asked about interest from the Premier League side.

"The only thing I'm focused on right now is the national team, and I play for a very, very, beautiful club in Italy," he stressed.

"I'm very proud I can play for Inter. I'm not focused on anything else other than the national team and Inter.

"Of course, it's a compliment [to be linked with other clubs]. But I can tell you, when you put the Nerazzurri jersey on, that is a big compliment."

Louis van Gaal knows there is a long way to go, but declared the Netherlands can become world champions in Qatar.

Van Gaal's team progressed into the World Cup quarter-finals, where they will face either Australia or Lionel Messi's Argentina, with a 3-1 victory over the United States at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.

Memphis Depay and Daley Blind struck in the first half, with the excellent Denzel Dumfries – who assisted the Netherlands' first two goals – sealing the win after Haji Wright had pulled one back for the USA.

Van Gaal's pragmatic approach has seen him come in for some criticism, but his team are now just two wins away from the final, and three away from lifting the trophy for the first time in their nation's history.

"I get enough appreciation from the people around me," Van Gaal said in his post-match press conference when asked if he believed he needed to win the competition to gain respect from some of his critics.

"I know the media don't always report in a positive way, it's a given in football, but some top countries didn't progress, we still have three matches to go.

"We can become world champion. I am not saying that we will, but that we can."

According to Opta, who do not count penalty shoot-out losses as defeats, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 11 World Cup games in charge of the Netherlands, a competition record.

The Netherlands have progressed from five of their last six round-of-16 matches at the World Cup, including progressing from their last three appearances at this stage, and while he was pleased with the outcome, Van Gaal pointed to the first half as an example of where the Oranje must up their game.

"I was very critical at half-time in my analysis I share with my players as usual," he explained.

"Despite being in the lead, we suffered so much, we were dispossessed so often, it was not necessary and that's not acceptable at a World Cup, if you play top countries you cannot make it.

"In the second half they did a much better job but nevertheless we were very pleased, and gives us incredible confidence. We will evaluate the match, then roll up our sleeves and get to work again, I can't promise any more than that."

Van Gaal will leave his role at the end of the Netherlands' campaign in Qatar, and that is serving as extra motivation for the players, according to defender Nathan Ake.

Ake told reporters: "I think you could see the fight we have, the whole team is united, everyone wants to do well for him.

"He's such an iconic figure for us and the Netherlands, so for him to do his last tournament, yeah obviously that's going to cross our mind."

Goalkeeper Andries Noppert added: "He's a really special person because he tries to make everyone better, he tries to keep it as one group. This is a special gift for a coach. 

"He gives you a really special feeling that you are all together, and for the World Cup and our squad, that's really important."

Gregg Berhalter backed the United States to take the next step on home soil in 2026 after seeing their encouraging World Cup run ended by the Netherlands on Saturday.

The USA suffered their fourth elimination in five World Cup last-16 ties at Khalifa International Stadium, as goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries gave the Oranje a 3-1 win.

Berhalter's team had 58.4 per cent of the possession and managed 17 shots during another energetic display, but they were unable to find a way back after falling behind 10 minutes in.

Head coach Berhalter said the USA – who will join Mexico and Canada in hosting the 2026 tournament – made clear progress in Qatar, only falling short due to a lack of a cutting edge.

"Today it was small moments. We're a very difficult team to play, a team other countries don't want to play against because of our intensity and movement," Berhalter said.

"What I would say is, when you look at the difference, to me there was offensive quality that the Netherlands had that we're lacking a little bit. 

"It's normal. We have a young group, players beginning their careers and we'll catch up to that, but we don't have a Memphis Depay right now, who plays at Barcelona and has played in the Champions League for years. Those are not excuses, that stuff is going to come.

"When you look at how we played, it should be positive. We should have confidence we can play against anyone in the world, the way we want to play, that's the important thing. 

"Now it's about taking that to the next level, where you can win in knockout games and keep going. They did a great job and we definitely put our stamp on this World Cup.

"I think this group is close. To be fielding the youngest starting XIs in the World Cup four times in a row, to still play the way we are, the American public should be optimistic. 

"We heard about the support we're getting from back home, it's something we really appreciate, we're sorry we couldn't win the game."

Asked whether he planned to lead the Stars and Stripes in four years' time, Berhalter added: "I've only been focused on the World Cup, achieving things with this group.

"In the next couple of weeks, I'll clear my head and think about what's next."

USA captain Tyler Adams echoed Berhalter's sentiments, expressing his pride in the team's efforts while emphasising the importance of their opponents' experience.

"I'm proud of the boys and we've shown we can hang with some of the best teams in the world," he told Fox Sports. "We've made progress and we will keep pushing. 

"We're not there yet, but we're close. It's exciting, the more time we have together, the more growth there will be. But we need to mature for matches like this.

"It comes down to the moments and the more experienced side got the better of us today."

Denzel Dumfries' heroics proved vital as the Netherlands rode their luck while beating the United States 3-1 on Saturday to reach World Cup quarter-finals.

Louis van Gaal's key tactic appeared to revolve around letting the USA have control, but the Oranje required two goal-line clearances in the second half before picking their opponents off late on.

It looked straightforward for a while as Dumfries set up Memphis Depay and Daley Blind to give the Dutch lead a commanding lead at the break.

Tim Ream and Haji Wright were then both denied by last-ditch interventions in the second period, before the latter gave the USA a lifeline.

But Dumfries finished them off to cap a wonderful performance and seal progress.

A lightning start should have brought a third-minute opener for Christian Pulisic, but the USA talisman failed to beat Andries Noppert.

The Netherlands capitalised on that let-off seven minutes later.

A 20-pass sequence ended with Dumfries pulling a low cross back to the edge of the box and Depay swept first-time into the bottom-left corner.

The Oranje subsequently allowed the USA to dominate and then hit them with a sucker punch on the stroke of half-time, Dumfries pulling back to Blind in a near-exact replica of the opener.

Ream was denied by Cody Gakpo's goal-line clearance just after the break, before Depay nearly gifted the USA a goal, with Wright rounding Noppert only to see Dumfries save the day.

Wright did score fortuitously soon after, the ball looping up off his foot and going over Noppert.

But dreadful marking allowed Dumfries to turn in a Blind cross nine minutes from time, killing off the USA's comeback hopes.

 

Christian Pulisic was named in the United States' starting XI for their World Cup round of 16 tie with the Netherlands.

Pulisic scored the USA's winner against Iran on Tuesday, securing their place in the knockout stage, but was sent to hospital for scans on an abdominal injury.

On Friday, it was confirmed Pulisic had been cleared to play a part against Louis van Gaal's team at Khalifa International Stadium, and Gregg Berhalter did not hesitate in throwing the Chelsea attacker back in from the off.

Pulisic has been directly involved in six goals in his past nine appearances for the USA, with four goals and two assists, having a hand in both of their goals so far in the World Cup. 

Josh Sargent, however, did not make the squad due to an ankle problem, with Jesus Ferreira coming in for his first appearance of the tournament.

The 21-year-old scored 18 goals in 35 MLS appearances for FC Dallas this past season.

At 25 years, 84 days, the USA's starting team is the youngest in a World Cup knockout match since Slovakia (24 years, 239 days), also against the Netherlands in 2010.

Van Gaal, meanwhile, stuck with the same team that started in the 2-0 victory over hosts Qatar last time out.

That means the in-form Cody Gakpo partners Memphis Depay in a front two – the PSV forward could become the first Netherlands player to score in each of his first four World Cup appearances, with Christian Vieri the last European player to do so in 1998. 

Once every four years players from across the globe get a chance to perform on the world stage and force their way into the football zeitgeist.

Whether it is a young midfielder from Ghana who has been battling injuries the past couple of seasons, or a mercurial Dutch forward trying to push his way out of the Eredivisie, it is the perfect launchpad to alter the course of a player's career.

Stats Perform has identified four players who have lit up Qatar and, in turn, have seen their profile and transfer stock skyrocket, opening the door to a new world of possibilities come the January transfer window.

Take a look at these young leading lights...

Cody Gakpo, the Netherlands

Cody Gakpo has perhaps been the breakout star of the tournament, finding the back of the net in all three of the Netherlands' group matches.

Having spent his entire career with PSV, the 23-year-old six-foot-four forward took a huge step forward in the 2021-22 season when he shattered his best goal return, following up his 11 goals in the 2020-21 campaign with 21 last time out.

While those in the Netherlands set-up were waiting to see if he could replicate his terrific 12 months, he has taken another leap, with 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 combined Eredivisie and Europa League contests this term.

There were rumours in the most recent transfer window that Leeds United were among the clubs looking to lure Gakpo away from PSV for a fee in the range of €30million, but he opted to reject their contract offer in the hope of landing at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

That bet on himself has proven to be a masterstroke, with his performances on the Qatar stage well and truly putting him on the radar of Champions League sides including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, per Dutch journalist Marco Timmer.

He became the first player from any European nation since 2002 to score in each group match, while he also became only the second player to put his side 1-0 up in all three group fixtures.

Enzo Fernandez, Argentina

Just over six months ago, Enzo Fernandez was playing for River Plate back in Argentina, but just half a season after arriving at Benfica for a deal worth up to €18m, the attacking midfielder could be moving on to greener pastures.

Fernandez, 21, broke into the Argentina squad while still with River Plate, but did not receive his senior debut until September 24 this year.

His lead-up to the World Cup was strong enough to book his ticket to Qatar, and after coming off the bench in Argentina's first group-stage loss to Saudi Arabia, he came on and scored against Mexico, forcing his way into the starting XI before contributing an assist against Poland.

His rapid rise has not gone unnoticed, and Marca is reporting Benfica have slapped a €100m fee on their new star if any team wants to pry him away while his contract still has another four seasons locked in.

Real Madrid are one side said to be accepting of that figure, with Marca claiming they now view him as an alternative option to Borussia Dortmund and England prodigy Jude Bellingham.

Mohammed Kudus, Ghana

Ajax's Mohammed Kudus had begun to break out at the club level this season heading into the World Cup.

The 22-year-old central midfielder scored four goals – including one each against Liverpool and Napoli – while adding two assists in six Champions League fixtures.

After being awarded his first senior international cap for Ghana back in 2019, he was spotted at Danish side Nordsjaelland and brought over to Ajax for a €9m fee in 2020.

He missed extended stretches of both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns through injuries, and still has not been used as a guaranteed starter this season, but his emergence on the World Cup stage has been undeniable.

Against South Korea, Kudus delivered Ghana their only win of the group as he found the back of the net twice in a 3-2 triumph, and it was a performance that is said to have caught the eye of European powerhouses.

Fichajes named Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain as interested parties, and Sports Illustrated believe his price will be around £90m.

 

Harry Souttar, Australia

Australia have now qualified for five World Cups in a row, but after not winning a game at both the 2014 and 2018 editions, they had centre-back Harry Souttar to thank for finally taking three points against Tunisia.

Souttar, 24, stands at a towering six-foot-six and showed off an impressive ability to cover ground in a hurry when he was called upon for a potentially game-saving, last-man challenge to defend Australia's 1-0 lead.

It was one of the most spectacular defensive efforts of the tournament so far and one that will go down in Australian football folklore, and it is even more significant when taking into account his recent history.

Tipped as a potential £20m transfer target late in 2021, Souttar then tore his ACL and missed 12 months of action, returning to the field in time to get three games under his belt with Stoke City before jetting off to the World Cup.

While he could be forgiven for needing time to work his way into form, he has instead started all three group games and been the Socceroos' top performer, including his stellar efforts in a second clean sheet against Denmark to help his side through to the knockout stage.

Clearly back to the player he was before his injury – at least – Souttar's showings on the world stage have been the kind that can take a career to a new level.

The Netherlands would love to start playing well, but beating the United States and reaching a World Cup quarter-final is their primary focus.

This has so far been an underwhelming tournament from the Oranje, although they still advanced top of Group A with two wins and a draw from their three matches.

Coach Louis van Gaal told the media to fly home if the football was "so terribly boring", but there is no doubt it is effective.

Discounting penalty shoot-outs, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 10 World Cup matches as a coach. Only Felipe Scolari (12) and Mario Zagallo (11) have enjoyed longer undefeated streaks to start their finals careers.

The coach appears to have his players on board, as Marten de Roon said: "We are searching, that is clear. We hope it gets better, we all hope so.

"But the first goal is to get through to the next round. We are not deliberately playing badly here. Maybe one of you has the solution?

"Of course, we would prefer to play everyone off the carpet and win 5-0 every time and become world champions, but it is not that simple. Winning counts on Saturday, but how we do it matters less. Even if necessary through penalty kicks.

 

"I don't mind becoming a world champion without having played a good match. The positive is that we haven't lost. That may also give us the confidence that it can only get better."

The Dutch have reached at least the quarter-final in four of their last five appearances at the World Cup, exiting in the last 16 in 2006.

Meanwhile, the United States have lost three of their four last-16 matches, winning only in 2002 against Mexico.

They have only won one of five meetings with the Netherlands – all in friendlies – although that victory was in their last such clash in 2015.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Netherlands – Cody Gakpo

All the talk going into the tournament was around one forward in Memphis Depay, but the Netherlands have a new star. Gakpo put Oranje 1-0 up in all three group games, with David Villa in 2010 the last player to open the scoring in four matches at a single World Cup.

United States – Christian Pulisic

Pulisic expects to be fit for this match despite his injury against Iran, and his return will be welcomed. The winger has scored twice as many goals (22) for the USMNT as any other player in Gregg Berhalter's squad.

PREDICTION

The Netherlands may not be playing well, but the supercomputer expects their winning habit to continue. They are 51.9 per cent favourites for this one.

The United States have a 22.0 per cent chance, while a draw that would spell penalties has a 26.1 per cent likelihood.

Gregg Berhalter is hopeful United States talisman Christian Pulisic will be fit to face the Netherlands this weekend, believing he "looks pretty good" ahead of training on Friday.

Pulisic suffered a pelvic injury when scoring the winning goal in the USA's victory over Iran on Tuesday.

The Chelsea forward was substituted at half-time, but hopes to recover in time to take on the Oranje in their last-16 clash at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.

While Boss Berhalter is confident Pulisic will feature, he is less optimistic about forward Josh Sargent, who injured his ankle in the win over Iran.

"We're going to see him on the training field today," he said.

"What I think is it looks pretty good. But we're going to have to see him on the training pitch today to get confirmation of that.

"[Sargent] is another one we're going to test in training, see where he's at. With Christian we're hopeful, with him a little less so.

"We'll see. He's going to test. At this stage, it's go time. If you can push through it, you do. I'm sure he'll have that mindset."

A surprise element of the USA's campaign so far has been the limited playing time for midfielder Giovanni Reyna.

The Borussia Dortmund man featured for just seven minutes at the end of the 0-0 draw with England, with Berhalter suggesting the circumstances have not yet been right to unleash the 20-year-old.

"I think a lot of it comes down to timing and circumstances," he added. If you look at how the games unfolded, we've had the lead and had to hold onto the lead late in the games.

"The only game we didn't have that scenario, we actually put him in to help get the victory.

"It's just how we can use him in the most effective way. He's a really talented player, and we're looking for the right moment he can no doubt help this team."

USA are winless in their last 11 World Cup games against European nations (D6 L5) since beating Portugal 3-2 in 2002.

Indeed, they have won just three of their 23 World Cup games against European sides (D7 L13), also beating Belgium in 1930 and England in 1950.

They come up against a Netherlands side that has been criticised for playing uninspiring football in this tournament, but Berhalter does not think Oranje boss Louis van Gaal will be concerned.  

"I'm laughing because there's always criticism of Holland," he said. "How many coaches are there in Holland? Seventeen million now?

"I heard the same thing in 2014. I remember playing away at Ajax, losing 1-0 at half-time, and Ajax were being whistled off because they only scored one goal.

"I think Louis van Gaal has tough enough skin. He realises his job is to deliver wins. He's been doing that. They're undefeated in the group stage.

"I'm sure he's focused on trying to guide his team to the final. He was very successful in 2014, and he has a way to win wherever he goes.

"If I'm the Dutch public, I wouldn't worry about it too much, I'd just wait and see."

Page 1 of 15
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.