Argentina and The Netherlands are to clash on Dec. 9 in the first quarterfinal match of the Qatar 2022 football World Cup after beating Australia 2-1 and the United States 3-1 respectively Saturday, on the first day of the knockout competition.
Lionel Messi, playing his 1000th match with the national jersey, scored his first non-group phase goal in the 35th minute and Julián Álvarez capitalized on a forced error by Aussie keeper Mat Ryan 12 minutes after the break to put the South Americans comfortably ahead. Messi's slotting also places him among the tournament's top scorers.
However, in the 77th minute, midfielder Enzo Fernández -who had scored Argentina's second goal against Mexico- deflected a long shot from Craig Goodwin bound for nowhere to put Australia back in contention with an own goal.
Substitute Lautaro Martínez who had come on for Álvarez repeatedly failed to net a string of Messi assistances and in the end goalie Dibu Martínez -not related- became the hero of the night with a last-minute save to keep the result unchanged.
The Netherlands had won their game earlier Saturday with goals from Memphis Depay in the 10th minute and Daley Blind right before the interval. Haji Wright had narrowed the gap in the 76th minute but Denzel Dumfries crushed all hopes of a comeback by scoring in the 83rd minute.
Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal held to the starting lineup he had fielded against hosts Qatar in their final group game. I was very critical in half time of my analysis that I share with my players. Despite that, we were in the lead 2-0. I think they were fantastic goals. One of these was really a team goal. But in the first half, we were dispossessed so often and it was not necessary. And that's not acceptable at a World Cup. In the second half, they did a better job even though we made fewer goals. Overall we're very pleased and it gives us incredible confidence, Van Gaal said.
Sunday's round-of-16 action features France against Poland and England versus Senegal.