Messi leads Argentina training ahead of World Cup match against Netherlands
Argentina will play the Netherlands on Friday in the World Cup quarterfinals as Lionel Messi tries to lift the trophy in his last-ever World Cup.
Argentina beat Australia in their World Cup round of 16 match on Saturday and will now face the Netherlands on Friday, December 9 at Lusail Stadium. They were already back to training just two days after their victory to prepare for the challenge they’ll face this weekend.
Argentina star Lionel Messi led the preparations ahead of the match against the Netherlands while Di Maria and Pau Gomez were absent. The last time these two teams met was in the 2014 World Cup semifinals, which was goalless at the end and saw Argentina win 4-2 on penalties.
Can the Netherlands stop Messi?
35-year-old Messi announced that this will be his last World Cup, and he is determined to lift the trophy at the end of it. His teammates have described a fire inside him as they get closer to the final. He has so far looked unstoppable in the World Cup, scoring three goals in four games.
“To see Lionel Messi giving everything on the field, I get goosebumps,” said Argentina player Lautaro Martinez. “As a teammate, you give everything for him. He is the greatest of them all. To have him as my teammate makes me extremely proud.”
But the Netherlands are determined to beat Argentina this time around. Head coach Louis Van Gaal talked about their plan to stop Messi.
“Messi is the most dangerous, creative player,” said Van Gaal. “He is able to create a lot and to score goals himself. But when they lose the ball, he doesn’t participate much. This gives us chances.”
That is as much as Van Gaal would give away - the rest, “you will see on Friday”.
Netherlands captain Virgil Van Djik has faced Messi several times when Liverpool and Barcelona played each other.
“The difficult thing about him is when we are attacking, he is chilling somewhere in a corner or something,” said Van Djik. “You have to be so very sharp in terms of defensive organization. They always looked for him to try to make it difficult for us on the counter.”