DOHA: Australia takes on Lionel Messi’s Argentina in a David v Goliath World Cup showdown while the United States look to ambush the Netherlands as the World Cup knockout rounds get underway on Saturday.
After a group stage full of twists and turns, the business end of the tournament kicks off with 16 teams dreaming of plotting a path to the final in Doha on December 18. The USA and the Netherlands open the second round at the Khalifa Stadium on Saturday, with the Americans aiming to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2002.
Coach Gregg Berhalter’s USA squad booked their spot in the last 16 with a 1-0 win over Iran to secure second place in Group B behind England. While the Dutch possess the greater historical pedigree, reaching three previous World Cup finals, the USA head into the knockout rounds brimming with confidence.
“It’s a great opportunity, but it’s not something that we’re going into it thinking it’s an honour,” Berhalter said. “We deserve to be in the position we’re in.”
The US face a Dutch team who finished first in Group A ahead of Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar without really showing their best form.
The Netherlands’ veteran coach Louis van Gaal is wary of the threat posed by the energetic Americans, describing Berhalter’s team as one of the best in the tournament.
“They have an excellent team, I would say even one of the best teams,” said Van Gaal. “It’ll be a tough match but it’s nothing we can’t overcome. We also have a good team.