One of the wildest group stages in FIFA World Cup history is in the books. The last few days especially have seen fantastic football with crazy results. Now that the dust has cleared, we have our final sixteen countries. Today, two will punch their tickets to the quarterfinals.
Netherlands vs. United States
Time: 3:00 PM UK, 10:00 AM ET
The United States will have Christian Pulisic available for the match as he was cleared by team doctors on Friday as fully fit. Josh Sargent is going to be a matchday decision, but it seems Gregg Berhalter is planning to be without the Norwich City striker.
Netherlands have a bit of an issue that was reported on yesterday as well:
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal revealed Friday that a number of his players are dealing with flu symptoms on the eve of Saturday’s round-of-16 match against the United States men’s national team https://t.co/rK85fH8n9e— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 2, 2022
Louis van Gaal confirmed the bug but tried to downplay it as much as possible:
“We are not going to elaborate on that,” van Gaal said, per ESPN’s Tom Hamilton. “But if it goes around in the group, it is worrying.”
Van Gaal was then asked if he would have enough fit players to take on the U.S. on Saturday. He responded that 15 of his 26 players would have to be ruled out for him to struggle with fielding a team.
“There are not 15 or so,” Van Gaal clarified. “In principle, everyone is fit and available.”
Van Gaal is obviously in the job of damage control, and while it would be surprising if almost the entire squad got smacked by a flu bug, for him to have to actually address it and say ‘in principle’ tells me that it’s at least a few guys. The winner of this match moves on to face the winner of the afternoon match between....
Argentina vs. Australia
Time: 7:00 PM UK, 2:00 PM ET
What else can you say about Australia that hasn’t been brought up? This was a team that stumbled and flailed their way through qualification and, on paper, looked to be the worst Australian side in twenty years. Yet, here they are, in the Round of 16 and playing with house money.
Argentina, on the other hand, was expected to take care of business and while they did win their group, it was anything but smooth. The quest to get Lionel Messi his World Cup truly begins now and while they are clearly the favorites in this match, the Aussies have everything to gain and nothing to lose. If Australia get an early goal, watch out.