Louis van Gaal believes he has spotted a chink in Lionel Messi’s armour and plans for the Netherlands to exploit it in their World Cup quarter-final clash against Argentina.
The Netherlands finished top of Group A, ahead of Senegal, and comfortably beat the USA in a 3-1 victory in the last 16 at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Argentina, on the other hand, bounced back from a stunning defeat against Saudi Arabia and picked up back-to-back wins against Mexico and Poland to top Group C.
The 2021 Copa America champions defeated Australia 2-1 at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in the last 16, with Messi opening the scoring for Argentina.
The Netherlands will now face Argentina on Friday at the Lusail Stadium, with the winners to face Croatia or Brazil in the semi-finals in Qatar.
Messi, who claimed he was competing at his final World Cup, has been in stunning form for Argentina and scored three times and assisted once at the tournament.
Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni will be relying on the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner to deliver a show-stealing performance against Van Gaal’s Netherlands side.
Van Gaal, who has hit back at critics over the Netherlands’ style of play, hailed Messi as a “dangerous creative player” and remains vigilant on the threat he possesses for his side.
However, the Netherlands manager has identified that Argentina captain Messi “doesn’t participate much” when his side lose the ball and the opposition have possession of it.
Speaking to NOS, Van Gaal said: “Messi is the most dangerous creative player, he is able to create a lot and to score goals himself.
“But when they lose the ball and the opponent has possession he doesn’t participate much, and this gives us chances [to exploit].”
Van Gaal admitted that he was critical of the Netherlands’ first-half performance against the United States in the round of 16, despite leading 2-0 at the time.
“I was very critical at half-time in my analysis that I share with my players,” he explained.
“Although we were in the lead 2-0, I think they were fantastic goals with beauty and team spirit.
“However, in the first half we were dispossessed so much and it was not necessary.
“That’s simply not acceptable at a World Cup. If you play top-notch countries, you simply can’t make those mistakes.
“In the second half they did a much better job I think even though we scored fewer goals. Nonetheless, we were all very, very pleased and it gives us incredible confidence.
“I think we have big chances here. We still have three matches to go. I’ve been talking about this for a year that we can become world champions.”
Featured Image Credit: ESPN/Alamy
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