Messi goes up against Gakpo: the World Cup’s breakout star
The Albiceleste captain will face off against Cody Gakpo in search of World Cup glory. The PSV player has been the name on everyone’s lips in Qatar.
The quarter final match between Argentina and the Netherlands carries high levels of expectation for both teams. Another fixture in the rivalry between the South Americans and Europeans in the World Cup, it will be the sixth time the two have met in the biggest tournament on earth, with the memory of 2014 still fresh in the mind when Argentina beat the Netherlands (also coached by Louis van Gaal) in the semi final. This time, the game comes in the quarter final round, but that has not stopped the memories of past encounters from surfacing in this match up.
For Messi in particular, it will be the third time he has played against the Netherlands in a World Cup. He did so in 2006, when he played his first game as a starter in a World Cup and also in 2014, when the Albiceleste ended their campaign with a bittersweet taste in the final in Brazil. This time, things will be different. It could well turn out to be last time the world sees the number 10 at a World Cup, which means the upcoming game is one last shot to achieve what both he and the Argentine people crave the most: lifting the World Cup title has become more of a requirement than a reward.
Not only will Lionel Scaloni’s side go up against a team that has been strengthened again by Louis van Gaal, but they will also have the added pressure of playing against someone upon which the spotlight has been firmly focused during the tournament, someone who has become the sensation of the Oranje so far: PSV’s Cody Gakpo.
If the summer was already the start of the rumour mill, the World Cup is confirming what was already speculated about a potential move to Leeds United or Manchester United; we are seeing that Gakpo can be a differential attacker in a top side in Europe.
This particular confrontation between Messi and Gakpo will also generate high expectation in terms of performance; the leader of such an historic team comes up against a young professional who has been tasked with leading his. Despite their differences, the roles of both players in Qatar definitely have their similarities: the goals, the offensive output and the amazing ability to maximize certain moments of play make them two of the biggest assets for their respective coaches.
Both top the goalscoring charts of their team (3 each), and have prduced enough to help their countries reach this round of the World Cup. Messi’s range of action is wider: given Argentina’s somewhat unconvincing moments so far, Messi has appeared just about everywhere across the attacking areas of the pitch; Gakpo, who is cementing himself as the Dutch spearhead, is standing out for his verticality and ability to damage rivals with his driving runs.
At the Lusail Stadium, and under the watchful eye of thousands of fans, the present and future of both teams will face off against each other. They are the two offensive pillars of each side, and the two most compelling reasons for Lionel Scaloni or Louis van Gaal to think about the semifinals.