The group stage is over and it's time for the main event as the knockout rounds of the 2022 FIFA World Cup begin. There's no time for easing yourself into the games that matter as they start of with a bang as the United States square off against the Netherlands in one of the most intriguing matches of the round, followed by Argentina taking on one of the surprise teams of the tournament in Australia.
For the U.S., Saturday's match offers the possibility of matching their best performance at a men's World Cup in the modern era. The 2002 run to the quarterfinals is the deepest run since the very first World Cup in 1930 where two group stage wins put them in the semifinals. This is a Netherlands team that wasn't really challenged by their competition, which included Ecuador, Senegal and hosts Qatar in Group A. The U.S., on the other hand, were pushed by one of the tournament favorites in England, who they held to a 0-0 draw. In between that, they drew 1-1 with Wales in the opener and beat Iran 1-0 to secure advancement.
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Saturday's World Cup schedule
- , 10 a.m. ET (Fox, Telemundo)
- , 2 p.m. ET (Fox, Telemundo)
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Netherlands vs. United States, 10 a.m. ET
One matchup to watch: Cody Gakpo vs. Sergino Dest/Antonee Robinson. Gakpo is the main scorer for the Netherlands and hefor them (either as a striker or a winger, depending on how you define his position). But it might be tempting for the Netherlands to switch it up and play him on the left, where he plays for his club, PSV Eindhoven, in order to match him up against the defensively suspect Dest. Either way, the Dutch don't create many chances, but when they do, . He's scored in each of the Netherlands game so far and it will be on the American fullbacks to see it doesn't happen again
Most likely to score a goal: Christian Pulisic. He scored and sacrificed his body in the process against Iran. That goal was the difference and carried the U.S. into the knockout rounds. If they're going to keep this ride going it's because Pulisic will be able to terrorize a Dutch defense and create for himself and others. This U.S. side took more shots during the group stage than the Dutch team did, so look for Pulisic to run the show in attack.
Man of the Match pick: Matt Turner. It won't take a lot of saves, but he'll need to come up with one or two huge ones if the U.S. want to pull this off. And he's got that kind of game in him. Turner might not excel with his feet, but he's excellent at doing the primary thing goalkeepers get paid for: Stopping shots. A great team wouldn't have to depend on their keeper. But this isn't the greatest of teams, it's a good one looking to pull and upset. That will require Turner to play an important role.
Match prediction: An early Pulisic goal sets the tone and a couple of late Matt Turner saves slam the door home on a historic upset for the United States men's national team. They win 1-0.
USA vs. Netherlands lineups
USA starting XI: Matt Turner, Sergino Dest, Walker Zimmerman, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Weston McKennie, Tim Weah, Jesus Ferreira, Christian Pulisic
Netherlands starting XI: Noppert, Timber, van Dijk, Ake, Dumfries, de Roon, de Jong, Blid, Klaassen, Gakpo, Depay
Argentina vs. Australia, 2 p.m. ET
One matchup to watch: Nicolas Otamendi vs. Mathew Leckie. Otamendi is the veteran presence of this back line, and he sets the tone with his aggression and strength. Leckie, on the other hand, is the piece in attack that can give this team the edge, as we saw against Denmark. Otamendi will need to keep Leckie in front of him and aim to have support to close him down, otherwise the attacker has all that is needed to help spring a surprise for the Aussies.
Most likely to score a goal: Lionel Messi. After having his penalty saved against Poland, he'll be hungry to score here and should. On paper, Argentina are 10 times better than the Aussies, but the same was true against Saudi Arabia. Messi knows that any lead they get, they need to build on it and not let anybody stick around. Expect him to take quite a few hits from deep in this one.
Man of the Match pick: Enzo Fernandez. He's been massive since the second game and looks to be cementing his spot in the middle. He can do a bit of everything and has the quick decision-making instincts needed to change a game in attack. He'll be huge once again.
Match prediction: Similar to the Poland game, Argentina dominate possession and the chances as the scoreline doesn't reflect how one-sided it is. Argentina 2, Australia 0.