Netherlands v USA
For some, the Netherlands went into this World Cup as dark horses to win the competition. After watching Louis van Gaal’s side in the group stage, some of those optimists may be changing their mind. As for the United States, confidence couldn’t be higher for what some have been calling the USA’s greatest ever team at a World Cup.
The Dutch beat Senegal and Qatar in their group matches, but were extremely poor in their draw with Ecuador – a side who ultimately were knocked out. They were a side full of energy and pressing, something which the US do a lot of too. The strength of the Americans is their energetic midfield, which will put pressure on an underperforming Netherlands midfield.
In terms of positives, van Gaal has a fairly robust 5-3-2 system which concedes hardly any goals. He has also got a relatively settled side, which has seen Cody Gakpo star in attack. Now with Memphis Depay also gaining more fitness with every game, the Dutch could have something more to worry opposing defenders.
The biggest problem for the USA is they already lagged the Netherlands in terms of squad depth before injuries to Tuesday’s goalscorer Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea attacker paid for his bravery in scoring the first-half winner against Iran by clattering into the goalkeeper and suffering what the team are calling a pelvic contusion, likely a bone bruise to his midsection. He’s day-to-day, and playing might be more about pain management than limiting damage, but even if Pulisic can get on the field, his effectiveness could be impacted.
Striker Josh Sargent also suffered a leg injury and is also day-to-day, but he might not be the preferred choice at center forward anyway in a game where the Americans will probably adopt a posture similar to against England. That means being content to play a mid block with eight or nine behind the ball and attempting to counter at pace.
It worked very well against the Three Lions for about 75 minutes before England started to find some late joy in a 0-0 draw that was ultimately enough to see both teams advance.
Don’t rule out extra-time and penalties, and if the Netherlands go a goal behind, fully expect them to battle back into the game. It will be tight, with few goals yet again from a Dutch perspective, but I expect they will edge through to the final eight.
Who better to back for a shot on goal than Cody Gakpo. The PSV man has scored in each of the Netherlands’ group games, and he is someone who always tries a shot from distance at some point in the game. With a fantastic goal record for club and country so far this season, Gakpo may score again, but if not, you have to back the exciting young player to at least prove dangerous playing as a striker next to Memphis again.
Musah gets overshadowed in the Americans’ talented midfield that also includes Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, but he has become an increasingly important part of connecting defense to attack for the Americans.
The Valencia youngster enjoyed his best game of the tournament in the 1-0 win over Iran on his 20th birthday. That included two shots, and he also got involved with a shot against England in a game where he did more defending.If Pulisic is out or even limited, Musah could be leaned upon to cover more ground in transition, and even if he isn’t, he is not going to be the Netherlands’ primary defensive priority with McKennie and Weah on the flanks and whoever plays at striker and the No. 10 role.
In other words, the Americans are going to have chances to get him involved again, enough that betting him to have a shot at a 60% implied probability makes sense.
Like we already touched on, Musah has been a major unsung hero for the United States this tournament, and he might be leaned on more heavily in this match than any of the tournament, particularly if Pulisic is unavailable.
While we just touched upon his offensive involvement, Musah also leads the USA with nine fouls over the three games. That’s an average of three per match, and you’d expect it to be an even higher number against the Netherlands.
Somehow through all this, he’s escaped a booking. And four of his likely teammates in the XI will already be carrying a card into the match, there could be incentive for him to take one in a tactical situation.
Even if that doesn’t happen, just his consistency of being around the ball on a day the American defense will have to work pretty hard is a good reason to play him totting up two fouls on Saturday.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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