Fri, 27 Jan 2023

DOHA, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- The Netherlands and the USA get the knockout stages of the World Cup underway on Saturday when they play the first game in the last 16 at the Khalifa International Stadium.

The ground will be back in use less than 48 hours after playing host to the drama of Spain v Japan on Thursday, and ground staff will have to work hard to ensure the playing surface is in optimum condition.

Both extra-time and the possibility of a penalty shootout add to the drama in the knockout stages and this match is hard to call.

Some would say that Louis van Gaal's side have been pragmatic on their way into the last 16, although some Dutch journalists have described them as 'boring' - something that didn't go down well with the coach, who invited them to fly home to the Netherlands if they didn't like what they were seeing.

The Netherlands have qualified with a 2-0 win over Senegal, a 1-1 draw against Ecuador (who were unlucky not to win) and a simple 2-0 victory over hosts Qatar, but none of those displays imply they are candidates to lift the title, as van Gaal has claimed.

They are, however, solid at the back, conceding just one goal so far, and with Cody Gakpo one of the revelations of the tournament in attack. Gakpo has scored in each of his side's games and a goal on Saturday would see him equal Spain's David Villa as only the second player to score in the first four matches of the World Cup.

The USA have impressed so far, with Gregg Berhalter's side causing rivals all sorts of problems with their energetic high pressing style and pace.

They kept their nerve to beat Iran in their last game, snuffing out any threat from a rival that would have qualified with a draw. However, a look at the data from that game shows that the USA kept their rivals pegged back in their half, unable to create any chances against them.

Berhalter insisted on Thursday that his team wasn't in the World Cup to make up numbers, telling the press, "we don't think it's an honor to be here," and the Dutch will have to find a way past players such as Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie if they are to cause problems for the USA defense.

The big doubt for the USA is captain Christian Pulisic, with the goalscorer against Iran struggling to recover from a pelvic injury he picked up in that game.

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