By Samindra Kunti in Doha
December 3 – Spearheaded by Memphis Depay and Denzel Dumfries, the Netherlands breezed past an inexperienced US side 3-1 to reach the last eight of the World Cup where they will meet Argentina.
With good teams, a fraction of time and a bit of space are enough to create goal opportunities. In the 10th minute, the Netherlands stormed forward, Dumfries and Memphis Depay, the team’s top scorer under coach Louis Van Gaal, combining for the opener. It was a cool finish from Depay who delayed his run following a superb pullback from Dumfries.
In the opening minutes, Pulisic had failed to capitalise on a major chance and it would cost his team dear in a match that was tactically fascinating but also exposed the USA’s limitations.
The USA lacked a proper number nine with Josh Sargent sidelined due to injury but they poured forward in great numbers. They had the pressure, but the Dutch had the breakaway and a second goal on the stroke of halftime when Dumfries, again, provided, this time for Daley to slot home.
In a box-to-box second half, the game came alive when the USA scored following some sloppy defensive work by the Netherlands. The ball deflected off substitute Haji Wright and into the net. It was a reward for their endeavour that had seen the ball cleared off the line, but the USA’s joy was short-lived.
Once again their school-boy defending was at fault, with Dumfries, arguably the man of the match, completely unmarked inside the box to volley home a third goal for the Dutch. There was no coming back for the Americans, who remain a young side and very much a work in progress.
“This is a tough one obviously to swallow for us,” said USA coach Gregg Berhalter. “The guys put everything they had into it. It’s such a good group of guys, such a close-knit group of guys, you just want more for them, and tonight we just came up short.”
The Dutch march on to the last eight where they will meet Argentina. Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal has repeatedly said that his team can win the World Cup. Perhaps he did so more in gest, as a way to transmit confidence to his players, but Argentina will be Holland’s sternest opponent yet, putting those words to the test.
Even so, he was not quite happy with what he had seen but reiterated that it’s now only a matter of three games for the Netherlands to win the World Cup.
“I’ve been trying to improve the possession pattern for four games now,” said Van Gaal. “We lost the ball unnecessarily so many times in possession that we had to defend again. But the defense is well organised, that’s great. But we have also walked in the wrong direction so many times, that must also be improved. All in all, I just know that we can do much better.”
“We just have to win three more times. It’s that simple.”
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