Emiliano Martinez was the hero as Argentina edged past the Netherlands in a penalty shoot-out following an absorbing 2-2 draw.

Martinez produced saves from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis before Lautaro Martinez slotted home the winning spot-kick as Argentina secured a place in the semi-finals against Croatia.

Lionel Messi looked to have won it for Argentina in normal time by creating Nahuel Molina's opening goal before adding another himself from the penalty spot, only for two late Wout Weghorst efforts to send the game beyond 90 minutes.

A low-key first half in which both teams were content to keep possession without being good enough to create anything with it was finally ignited by the brilliance of Messi 10 minutes before the break.

The Paris Saint-Germain star picked the ball up 40 yards from goal, took a couple of players out with a body swerve, and then slid it through to Molina who finished well from 10 yards.

The second goal for Argentina came after 73 minutes following a senseless trip by Denzel Dumfries on Marcos Acuna just inside the edge of the penalty area.

Messi, who missed from the spot against Poland earlier in the tournament, made no mistake this time, powering his effort to Andries Noppert's left.

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal threw on Weghorst with 12 minutes to go and it proved to be a masterstroke.

Weghorst halved the deficit five minutes after his introduction, heading home Berghuis' inswinging cross, and landed another telling blow with virtually the last kick of normal time.

With everyone in the stadium expecting Teun Koopmeiners to go for goal with a free-kick 20-yards out, he instead slipped a clever ball through to Weghorst and he did the rest, sliding it past Emiliano Martinez.

A match that had seen regular flashpoints in the second half boiled over again after the final whistle with players from both sides embroiled in pushing and shoving.

Argentina pressed for a winner in extra-time but could not find a breakthrough, with Enzo Fernandez coming closest in the final minute with a 20-yard drive then crashed against the outside of the post.

Emiliano Martinez then took centre stage, saving the Netherlands' first two efforts to put Argentina in control. Enzo Fernandez put his effort wide to increase the tension but Lautaro Martinez made no mistake, firing home to spark wild celebrations.

What does it mean? Argentinian joy is unconfined

What a day to be an Argentina fan! News of Brazil's penalty shoot-out defeat to Croatia prompted scenes of delight in the stands at Lusail Stadium before their own team did what their arch-rivals could not and secured a place in the World Cup semi-finals.

Argentina still look functional rather than fluent but if they can continue to keep it tight at the back, they have a genius in Messi to open games up at the other end.

Magnificent Messi stands alone

Simply superb. He might not dominate games like he did 10 years ago but he still delivers in the key moments.

He created the first with typical impish brilliance and held his nerve twice to slot away two penalties, including one in the shoot-out.

Wonderful Weghorst

After 78 minutes of achieving largely nothing in attack, Van Gaal threw on Weghorst in the hope he could deliver some late magic. The Besiktas striker delivered in spades.

A trademark glancing header was to be largely expected but his second goal certainly wasn't, a smart finish after a clever free-kick routine that caught out the Argentina defence.

What's next?

Argentina go forward to meet Croatia in Tuesday's first semi-final while the Netherlands head home.

Lionel Messi became the player with the most assists on record in World Cup knockout matches on Friday, surpassing Pele when he teed up Nahuel Molina's goal against the Netherlands.

Messi produced a trademark assist as Argentina hit the front 35 minutes into their quarter-final clash with the Oranje, slipping a fine reverse ball behind a packed defence for Molina to finish.

Since such records began in 1966, no player has matched Messi's tally of five assists in knockout ties at the tournament, with Pele managing four.

Molina's goal also gave Messi his seventh World Cup assist overall – all of which have come for different goalscorers.

Since 1966, only fellow Argentina great Diego Maradona has laid on more goals at the tournament as a whole, recording eight assists.

Lisandro Martinez was included by Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni for Friday's World Cup quarter-final against the Netherlands.

Manchester United defender Martinez came on five minutes after half-time in Argentina's narrow 2-1 win over Australia in the round of 16 and retains his place at the expense of Papu Gomez with Scaloni reverting to a 3-5-2 formation.

Rodrigo De Paul also starts while Angel Di Maria is named on the bench.

Louis van Gaal also makes one change to his Netherlands starting line-up with Steven Bergwijn coming in for Davy Klaassen.

Argentina and the Netherlands clash for a sixth time at the World Cup on Friday.

They are familiar foes having been regular opponents over the years, featuring in some memorable games, a couple of forgettable ones and a hugely controversial encounter in 1978.

The winners of this quarter-final will take on Croatia or Brazil in the last four.

Here, Stats Perform looks back at the previous World Cup meetings between Argentina and the Netherlands.

 

Netherlands 4-0 Argentina – June 26, 1974

The 1974 World Cup saw the most one-sided clash between the pair with Rinus Michels' wonderful Netherlands side steamrolling Argentina.

Playing at their first World Cup in 36 years, the Dutch coasted through the first group stage while Argentina had to rely on a 4-1 defeat of whipping boys Haiti to advance.

That set up a second group phase meeting in which the gulf in class was quickly apparent - Johan Cruyff and Ruud Krol putting the Netherlands 2-0 up by half-time. Second-half goals from Johnny Rep and Cruyff finished the job for Michels' men, who reached the final only to lose 2-1 to West Germany.

 

 

Argentina 3-1 Netherlands (after extra time) – June 25, 1978

It was no surprise that Argentina triumphed on home soil in 1978 – a World Cup riddled with accusations of corruption and intimidation.

Following a military coup in 1976, the governing National Reorganisation Process were desperate for international legitimacy and saw the World Cup as the perfect opportunity to achieve it.

Accusations of refereeing bias accompanied their matches in the first group phase and they qualified in second behind Italy.

The second group phase was even more controversial. Needing to beat Peru by four goals in their final match to reach the final at the expense of arch-rivals Brazil, Argentina won 6-0.

In the final, they met a Netherlands side shorn of Cruyff, who had opted to remain at home, although he denied it was on political grounds.

A bad-tempered game that was delayed by Argentina being late to enter the field went into extra-time after Dick Nanninga cancelled out Mario Kempes' first-half opener.

Kempes, who finished as the tournament's leading scorer, restored Argentina's lead in the 105th minute and a third from Daniel Bertoni secured Argentina's first World Cup crown.

 

 

Netherlands 2-1 Argentina – July 4, 1998

Both teams advanced to the round of 16 by winning their groups, although they found their next assignments more difficult. The Netherlands edged past Yugoslavia 2-1 while Argentina required penalties to overcome England following a pulsating 2-2 draw.

That set up a quarter-final that will live long in the memory.

On a steamy day in Marseille, the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Jaap Stam and Edgar Davids went head to head with Gabriel Batistuta, Diego Simeone and Javier Zanetti.

Patrick Kluivert gave the Dutch a 12th-minute lead only for Claudio Lopez to equalise five minutes later. Neither side could land another blow until the dying seconds when Frank de Boer's raking pass picked out Bergkamp and, after controlling the ball instantly, he stepped inside Roberto Ayala and fired high into the net.

The Netherlands advanced to the semi-finals where they lost to Brazil on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

 


Netherlands 0-0 Argentina – June 21, 2006

With both teams having already qualified from Group C, this was nothing more than a joust for top spot. Several first-choice players were left out by respective coaches Jose Pekerman and Marco van Basten, rested for the tests to come.

Argentina came closest in a hard-fought encounter, Juan Roman Riquelme's free-kick hitting the post after deflecting off Khalid Boulahrouz.

The South Americans topped the group and went on to beat Mexico 2-1 in extra-time in the round of 16 before bowing out to tournament hosts Germany in the quarter-finals in a penalty shoot-out.

As for the Dutch, they lost 1-0 to Portugal in the round of 16.

 


Netherlands 0-0 Argentina (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties) – July 9, 2014

Netherlands topped their group and accounted for Mexico and Costa Rica, albeit the latter via a penalty shoot-out, to reach the last four.

Argentina also made light work of the pool stage and advanced thanks to 1-0 wins over Switzerland (after extra-time) and Belgium to set up a clash with the Dutch.

An eagerly-awaited clash turned into a damp squib, however, with neither side showing any attacking fluency.

The Dutch had brought penalty specialist Tim Krul off the bench deep into extra-time against Costa Rica, and promptly watched him save two spot-kicks.

Against Argentina, coach Louis van Gaal had already made his three substitutions, meaning Jasper Cillessen had to stay between the sticks. He didn't save any while Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder missed to send Argentina into the final for the first time since 1990.

 

Jurrien Timber is not shaking at the prospect of facing Lionel Messi but says it will be a "great challenge".

Netherlands defender Timber will be tasked with trying to stop arguably the best footballer in the world on Friday when Louis van Gaal's side take on Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Messi has scored three goals at Qatar 2022 and gave a virtuoso display as Argentina edged out Australia 2-1 on Saturday.

Keeping the Paris Saint-Germain star quiet will be key to the Netherlands' chances of progressing to the semi-finals but Timber is up for the challenge.

Sitting alongside fellow defender Nathan Ake, he said: "Am I getting the shakes [at the prospect of facing him]? Fortunately not.

"It’s a great challenge to play against him. Messi is a fantastic footballer, but we aren't just playing against Messi and we don't have to solve it with the two of us.

"We're going to do that with the team."

Ake added: "It's very difficult to stop him. He's probably the best player in the world but we have to be wary of several players."

 

Another key man in the Dutch defence is captain Virgil van Dijk and he also felt it would be foolhardy to train all their focus on Messi.

He said: "They have a good team with many players that can decide the match.

"But it's not the Netherlands against Messi, it's the Netherlands against Argentina. I have a lot of respect for Messi, who, like Cristiano Ronaldo, has been among the best in football for so long. He deserves special attention but they also have Julian Alvarez, he has a bright future ahead of him at Manchester City and Argentina. But hopefully not in two days, here in Qatar."

The main question for Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is whether to start again with a 4-3-3 formation or switch to the 3-5-2 they finished with against Australia.

If it's the former, it may see a return to the starting line-up for Angel Di Maria, if he can prove his fitness. If Scaloni opts for a three-man defence, then Lisandro Martinez will be included at the expense of Papu Gomez.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Netherlands – Memphis Depay

Depay has been the Netherlands' creative hub, not just in Qatar, but for many months.

The Barcelona attacker has been involved in 34 goals in his last 30 appearances for Netherlands in all competitions, scoring 24 and assisting 10.

 


Argentina – Julian Alvarez

Having started the tournament behind Lautaro Martinez, Alvarez has emerged as the main foil for Lionel Messi.

Alvarez has scored in each of his two World Cup starts. Only three Argentina players have scored in their first three; Guillermo Stabile in 1930, Oreste Corbatta in 1958 and Hernan Crespo in 2006. If he starts and scores in this match, at 22 years and 312 days of age, he'd be the youngest to score in his first three World Cup starts since Peru's Teofilo Cubillas in 1970 (21y 94d).


PREDICTION

Argentina are a 44.2 per cent chance to emerge victorious and progress to the semi-finals, according to Stats Perform's AI computer.

The Netherlands are rated at 27.1 per cent chance with a draw coming in at 28.7 per cent.

Alexis Mac Allister's rise to prominence in the Argentina squad has surprised even himself, and the Brighton midfielder is relishing the prospect of Friday's World Cup quarter-final against the Netherlands.

Mac Allister did not play Argentina's first game in Qatar, a stunning 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia, but has subsequently cemented a place in Lionel Scaloni's midfield and quickly emerged as a key player.

Argentina take on the Oranje at Lusail Stadium with a place in the semi-finals at stake and Mac Allister is excited at the prospect.

"If you would have told me this [how influential he has become] before the World Cup I would have signed up for it, for sure," he said.

"It has been a fast integration but the credit for that goes to my colleagues and the technical staff."

The Netherlands will pose a serious threat to Argentina's hopes but Mac Allister was more interested in talking up his team-mates than spending too much time worrying about Louis van Gaal's men.

He added: "We know they have great players, and a very clear style, but we have our own weapons and will try to counter theirs.

"There is a great history between the sides but if we do things right everything will be fine."

The nations have met five times previously at the World Cup, with the last coming in 2014 when Argentina won a semi-final clash in Brazil on penalties after a turgid 0-0 draw.

Van Gaal was also in charge of the Dutch on that occasion, during his second spell of three at the helm, and Mac Allister was full of admiration for the 71-year-old.

"I remember watching that game with my family at home," he said. "I enjoyed it and now I am here. Being able to play these matches is a great joy.

"We know he's a top coach, world renowned, and there is a great deal of respect from everyone in our camp, including me. His teams always have variation but with a clear idea. We are up against a great team."

Lionel Messi has been Argentina's standout player so far in Qatar and stopping him could be key to the outcome.

Reports in the Netherlands suggest Van Gaal is considering employing someone to man mark the Paris Saint-Germain star but Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni claims to have seen it all before.

He said: "We are used to our opponents coming up with something different. We will see but, during the match, there are always modifications, and that’s something we are likely to do as well.

"Let's wait and see but we have played matches before when there has been man-marking on Leo."

Argentina have injury concerns over Rodrigo De Paul and Angel Di Maria but Scaloni was not giving much away regarding their availability.

"Today we have the last training session so we will see how they feel," he said. "Rodrigo trained on Wednesday so let's see what happens in today's session. Angel also trained so we will decide later today."

Louis van Gaal is not expecting a classic World Cup encounter between the Netherlands and Argentina on Friday due to the way "football has evolved".

The quarter-final at Lusail Stadium will be the sixth finals meeting between the two sides.

Those previous clashes include a dominant Netherlands win in 1974, a controversial 1978 final and Dennis Bergkamp's memorable winner at this stage in 1998.

Most recently, however, Van Gaal's Netherlands and Argentina played out a goalless draw in the semi-finals eight years ago, with La Albiceleste advancing on penalties.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference on Thursday, Van Gaal appeared to suggest a similarly tight affair was likely this time.

Explaining his "new vision", the Oranje coach had "a very attacking DNA" at Ajax in the 1990s but learnt at Barcelona "you can't always pursue that goal".

"It is much more difficult to play as offensively as Ajax used to play," Van Gaal added as he again faced criticism for the Netherlands' style of play. "If you fail to see that, it is very difficult to understand this is the way things go.

"When, in 2014, I started developing the more defensive system, people criticised me. Now, half the world is playing that kind of football. Football has evolved in that direction."

Asked how this latest episode in the Netherlands-Argentina rivalry might compare, the coach said: "I've just provided you with a wonderful answer to your question: football is no longer being played as in 1988 or 1974 or whatever.

"Then it was an open game, which it no longer is. You can have all sorts of opinions about that, but this is simply the way football has evolved.

"It is always possible to have decisive moments that you remember years afterwards, like Bergkamp's goal, so undoubtedly we will continue to remember this forever."

Memphis Depay, appearing alongside Van Gaal, is of a similar view, saying: "The game is going to be decided in moments.

"I believe we can catch a moment and go through. We obviously want to play a good game, but there's also going to be a tactical game, I think."

Van Gaal is unlikely to shift away from that "defensive system" now as the Netherlands prepare for a step up in quality.

"Argentina in my view are a top country with top football players in their squad," Van Gaal said. "The tournament actually is starting tomorrow for real for us.

"Of course, I don't want to downplay the importance of other countries we've been able to beat, but Argentina and possibly Brazil in the next round are quite different from the countries we've played in the groups and in the last 16."

Netherlands and PSV forward Cody Gakpo will "think about" a move to Manchester United should the Premier League side come calling again.

Gakpo has been one of the stars of the 2022 World Cup so far and is reportedly a January transfer target for United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich among others.

The 23-year-old became only the second player in the competition's history, after Italy's Alessandro Altobelli in 1986, to open the scoring three times in the same group stage.

He fired a blank in the 3-1 win over the United States in the last 16, but the in-form attacker still boasts a return of 17 goals and eight assists in 30 games this season.

United are reputed to be the frontrunners to sign Gakpo, having already reached out in the past window, and he will consider any fresh interest in the coming weeks.

Asked about missing out on a move to the Premier League earlier this year, coinciding with PSV failing to qualify for the Champions League, Gakpo said: "That was tough.

"I've learned a lot from that. Next time I'll do it differently. I thought about Manchester United before, but when that didn't happen I didn't know anymore and started to doubt.

"Then Leeds United came and I wondered if I should go there. Now I'll wait for everything. I haven't heard from Manchester United yet, but when they come, I'll think about it."

 

Gakpo's goals and all-round attacking play have helped the Netherlands through to the quarter-finals in Qatar, where Argentina await in a mouth-watering tie on Friday.

The Oranje have lost just one of their nine meetings with Argentina, though the most recent of their four draws resulted in a penalty shoot-out loss in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.

Argentina have found their groove with wins over Mexico, Poland and Australia since suffering a shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia, with Lionel Messi playing a starring role.

"We shouldn't think only about him," Gakpo added in the interview with Dutch outlet NRC. "We need to win and it doesn't matter who we are facing.

"Argentina are here for one reason and so are we. We are aware we have to play better than them, and we can do that.

"But in a tournament like this, all that counts is the result. We have to find the right moments on the field to use each other's strengths."

Lionel Messi is "human" and "can miss" penalties, according to the Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert ahead of his team's clash with Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals on Friday.

In his fifth World Cup, Messi has scored three times in Qatar to help Argentina to the final eight of the tournament, taking his tally to 94 international goals.

Messi has converted 21 of his 26 penalties in his Argentina career, with one of those failures coming in the 2-0 victory over Poland in La Albiceleste's last group match in Qatar, though he did score from 12 yards in the shock opening 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.

With Spain and Japan dumped out by penalty shoot-outs in the round of 16, Noppert is ready to take on the challenge if Friday's game goes the distance and Messi takes a spot-kick.

"He's the same like us. He's a human," Noppert told reporters on Wednesday. "It's about the moment.

"He can also miss, and we see it in the beginning of this tournament."

Noppert's route to becoming the Netherlands' number one goalkeeper at a World Cup has been an unconventional one, having been released from second-tier Dutch side Dordrecht just two years ago.

He considered retiring from football altogether, though was eventually signed by Eredivisie side Go Ahead Eagles in early 2021. Noppert found success there, before joining Heerenveen in May of this year.

His form was enough to earn him a call-up to the Netherlands' squad for Qatar, and Noppert became just the second Oranje player to make his national team debut at a World Cup in their opening 2-0 victory over Senegal.

With such a meteoric rise, Noppert spoke of his pride ahead of the biggest game of his career, while crediting coach Louis van Gaal for the role he played in the 28-year-old's inclusion.

"When you are a little boy you dream of being at a World Cup," Noppert added. "When you see my career, you put that dream away. But I kept fighting for it. 

"There is only one national coach who could have brought me here and that is our national coach [Van Gaal]. 

"I am proud to be here and I have to keep working hard. That is the most important thing."

Lionel Messi will be a danger to the Netherlands even when he is "chilling" and the Dutch must have a "good plan" to combat Argentina's superstar, says Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutch will renew hostilities with La Albiceleste in Friday's quarter-final contest in Qatar, in a fixture rich in World Cup history.

Argentina defeated the Netherlands in the 1978 final, while Louis van Gaal will get the chance at revenge having been in charge when his side lost to Messi and company on penalties in the semis eight years ago.

Van Dijk came up against Messi, who already has three goals in Qatar including in the 2-1 last-16 win over Australia, when Liverpool defeated Barcelona in the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals.

 

So, naturally, he knows the Paris Saint-Germain star and seven-time Ballon d'Or winner is a player you can never take your eyes off.

"The difficult thing about him is when we are attacking, he is chilling somewhere in a corner or something," Van Dijk said.

"You have to be so very sharp in terms of defensive organisation. They always looked for him to try to make it difficult for us on the counter.

"It is an honour to play against him. It is not me against him, or the Netherlands against him, but the Netherlands against Argentina.

"No one can do it on his own, we will have to come up with a good plan."

Frenkie de Jong says he has no inside track on how to stop his former Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi, as the Netherlands and Argentina prepare to meet in the World Cup.

The two sides will square off in the quarter-finals at Qatar 2022, with Louis van Gaal's Oranje having beaten the United States and Lionel Scaloni's Albiceleste having felled Australia.

With three goals so far this tournament - and in likely his last visit to the World Cup - Messi has netted three goals and ignited an otherwise hit-and-miss Argentina side.

As the forward pursues the biggest honour to elude him across his trophy-laden career, Netherlands fans might have hoped De Jong would know how to stop his ex-colleague, but the Dutchman says that is not the case.

"No," he told ESPN. "I know him, but I don't know how to stop him. He's been making the difference for 15 years and there is not one way to stop him.

"Usually he would still make the difference during training too. We just have to stop him as a team.

Asked if he had spoken to Messi since their clash was confirmed, De Jong added: "We haven't texted each other. I am not planning to. We will see each other on Friday."

Having joined Barcelona in 2019, De Jong was a member of the Barca team that claimed the 2020-21 Copa del Rey alongside Messi, with both scoring in the final.

The latter was on hand when Argentina beat the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals, before they were downed by Germany in the final, and De Jong is determined to ensure there is no repeat.

"Argentina is of course a top team," he added. "But so are we. It will be a very good match, but I am confident. I think they look at us the same way. It's a 50-50 encounter."

Louis van Gaal has called on the Netherlands to replicate their 2014 World Cup semi-final performance to contain Lionel Messi in Friday's quarter-final clash with Argentina.

Van Gaal's side reached the last eight with a 3-1 win over the United States on Saturday, while Argentina joined them by beating Australia 2-1 as Messi scored his first World Cup knockout goal.

Friday's match will represent the sixth World Cup meeting between the two teams. Only two fixtures have been played more often at the tournament – Brazil versus Sweden and Argentina versus Germany (both seven).

Argentina triumphed on penalties after the last such fixture finished goalless in 2014's semi-finals, when Van Gaal was in the second of his three spells with the Oranje, and he says they must replicate their defensive work from that game to keep Messi quiet. 

"Of course, Messi is the most important player for them, the most creative. Those are always the most important players," he told De Telegraaf.

"Eight years ago at the World Cup in Brazil, we succeeded well in neutralising Messi. He didn't hit a ball then. 

"We thought we were the better team, but we eventually lost on penalties. I can't back it up with facts any more, but that's my memory. 

"I substituted to win the game in regular time. Unfortunately, that did not work out. In retrospect, it may have been a stupid decision."

 

Excluding shoot-outs, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 11 World Cup matches as a coach (W8 D3). If the Netherlands avoid defeat against Argentina, he will equal ex-Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari's record of 12 games without defeat from the start of a World Cup managerial career.

Despite criticism of the Netherlands' style, Van Gaal believes they have grown into the tournament after several players overcame fitness issues.

"I believe in the team over the individual player," he added. "It is not the case that we have already achieved top form as a team. We can be much better, that's what I've always said. 

"There is an upward trend. You should also not forget how we arrived with these 26 players. There were players who were not match fit. We had to build them up and so on.

"Much of that is now behind us. Memphis [Depay] can now play 90 minutes, for example. More were sick, weak, or nauseous. That is getting better. 

"With our tactical plan we can surprise the opponent. That has been proven several times. These guys haven't lost under my leadership."

No team has appeared in more World Cup finals without winning than the Netherlands (three), and while Van Gaal believes they have the ability to lift the trophy, he acknowledges they are not favourites.

"I said that we can become world champions with this squad," Van Gaal said. "I didn't say we're going to be world champions, but we can be.

"If we don't become world champions in the end, because there can only be one, I don't think you can say we failed."

Criticism of Louis van Gaal as a "conservative coach" is unfair, according to Arsene Wenger, who believes the Netherlands boss will "gamble" when required.

Van Gaal has led the Oranje to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in his third stint in the job, beating the United States 3-1 on Saturday.

The Netherlands also reached the semi-finals under the former Ajax and Barcelona coach in 2014, before missing out on qualification for Russia 2018 in his absence.

Wenger, leading FIFA's technical study group, therefore believes Van Gaal deserves more leeway as his style of play in this tournament is scrutinised.

After finishing top of Group A, Van Gaal told journalists to go home if the Netherlands' football was "terribly boring", as the accusation had been.

"I would not classify Louis van Gaal as a conservative coach," Wenger said on Sunday. "I believe he has done remarkable work in his life and have a big respect for what he has delivered.

"He is a bit more cautious until now in the game. I agree with you because Dutch football, I have to give them credit, historically, they've always been attacking.

"In this competition, the numbers of possession is a bit less. That's it.

"I don't know if he plays deliberately conservatively or whether he does that to be more efficient. But at the moment, it works for him.

"And I wouldn't judge the potential for the Dutch until now. I think he knows. Van Gaal has huge experience.

"And I was thinking last night this guy, he comes back and he's in the quarter-final again. He's in the last eight with Holland, and before he came back, Holland had struggled.

"So, he has something special to carry the belief of a team, always to find the places in the tournament, and I have a huge respect for that.

"Let's see how he develops his capabilities as well to go for a gamble. If the game is tied later on in the match, I'm convinced [he will]."

Virgil van Dijk said Manchester United are not "at the same level" as Real Madrid as he offered transfer advice to his in-form Netherlands team-mate Cody Gakpo.

PSV forward Gakpo scored in each of the Netherlands' three group-stage games and played alongside Van Dijk as the Dutch defeated the United States 3-1 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

With nine goals in 14 Eredivisie games this season, Gakpo's stock has continued to rise in Qatar and rumours of a switch to United have exacerbated since the Red Devils terminated the contract of Cristiano Ronaldo.

LaLiga heavyweights Madrid have also been registered with an interest, while Liverpool are also reportedly monitoring the situation.

Van Dijk has no doubt Gakpo is ready to take the next step in his career but offered a cheeky dig at Liverpool's rivals when speaking to reporters after the USA game.

"Are Manchester United and Real Madrid on the same level? No disrespect, not at all," he said.

"I definitely think he has that next step in him. I definitely feel like it could happen, whether that is in the winter or the summer or next year, time will tell. 

"He is a great boy who works hard, very talented and definitely there is more in him. We are so pleased he is doing so well for us. Long may it continue."

Gakpo did little to quell rumours of a January move when speaking to De Telegraaf about his future last week.

"As it stands now, I will still be playing for PSV after the winter break," he said. "But, as I said before the start of the World Cup, we will see what will happen."

Memphis Depay has taken a swipe at ex-NBA star and American TV analyst Charles Barkley following the Netherlands' 3-1 win over the United States in the World Cup round of 16 on Saturday.

Depay opened the scoring in the victory, which came after Barkley had started trash talk in the lead-up to the knockout stage clash.

Barkley said on NBA on TNT: "We're going for the Netherlands. We opening up a can of whoop-a** 'cause I guarantee the Netherlands is in trouble."

The official Dutch team Twitter account responded with a hype video of Barkley's quotes shortly prior to kick-off with Barcelona attacker having the last laugh.

"Lotta bark, no bite," Depay posted on Twitter only a few hours after the game, with an image of a forlorn-looking Barkley under the 3-1 scoreline.

The victory means the Netherlands will take on Argentina in the quarter-finals, while the USA's World Cup is over.

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