Argentina v Netherlands – Tactics & Match Report: FIFA WC 2022

Argentina v Netherlands – Tactics & Match Report: FIFA WC 2022

  • Tactics
  • December 11, 2022
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A repeat of the 2014 World Cup semi final is what everyone looked back at instantly upon hearing the possibility of another face off between the Dutch and La Albiceleste. Chaos, football, grit, and drama were ensured before kick off itself.

Van Gaal’s interviews before the game were rather more targeted than usual. A plan to lock Leo Messi, being the better side, having an upper hand if it goes to a shootout. There were a lot of claims and Argentina sat and listened in silence. They were bound to break their silence sometime soon though.

The Dutch may have begun the off-field drama pre-game, but it was the South Americans who did the talking on the pitch. When everyone expected a 4-3-3 with Di Maria returning; Scaloni changed the system to a 5-3-2. 

Argentina’s 5-3-2

Tactically, the 5-3-2 enabled Argentina to have more control over the Dutch set-up. Scaloni’s idea to nullify the Dutch in all their areas of threat like the wings and the half spaces by using an extra CB and 3 midfielders worked brilliantly as the Netherlands could not do anything of quality to Emiliano Martinez’s goal during the first half. The Netherlands registered a 0.12 xG compared to Argentina’s 0.59 xG in the first half.

The Netherlands’ 5-3-2

The similarity of the 2 systems employed by either coach let the game’s critical moments be decided by moments of quality; which the Dutch had almost none of in the first half. Argentina tried to build up from the back in a 3-1-4-2 structure which the Netherlands struggled to cope with as Argentina always had an extra man in the first 2 phases of build-up; making the Dutch press extremely hard to pull off.

Argentina’s 3-1-4-2 in attack & build up

The same aspect made progression through the lines extremely difficult for the Oranje. Dumfries and Blind were forced to drop off more than usual due to how high Argentina’s FBs were. Their other midfield fulcrum: Frenkie de Jong was also tightly marked, limiting his progressive actions and hence Netherlands’ as well.

Messi’s assist to Molina

Moments of ingenious quality were expected as the key to changing the game and who else but Leo Messi to provide yet another moment of magic? This time making an assist to Nahuel Molina. Something which seems so simple but just as impossible to pull off.

Messi’s pass boxed out 6 Dutch players who were probably caught off-guard by Molina’s sudden run from the right. Van Gaal said Argentina lacked men up front in a 5-3-2 and it would hurt Argentina, but Messi had other plans.

Tactics and gameplans were prevalent in the game for long spells. The game went on till the 64th minute when Van Gaal pulled out his first trick; the substitutions of Luuk de Jong on for Blind and Bergwijn off for Berghuis, bringing in a crosser and an aerial threat.

Much didn’t change to the despair of the Dutch but the scoreline did change in 73’ minute. This time the LB, Acuna getting caught inside the box, as a penalty was awarded to Argentina. Messi stepped up & slotted it home and that was 2-0.

The game seemed to be in Argentina’s hands but again the Netherlands had different ideas. Weghorst came on for Memphis and scored a brilliant header almost out of nothing to bring the Dutch back into the game. From then on the Netherlands played a 4-4-2 with Luuk de Jong and Weghorst leading the line, expecting crosses.

Crosses came in, were met, and dealt with; apart from one which Pezzela had committed a foul. Parades’ foul outside the box in the dying minutes of added time eventually led to the equaliser from Weghorst; thanks to a beautiful piece of set-piece trickery by Berghuis; sliding a pass in when the world expected a shot. And with the last kick of the ball leading to a goal, the game unbelievably went into extra time.

A similar script continued in extra time. Argentina pushed on even more vigorously creating a multitude of chances but failing to breach Noppert. Enzo did manage to beat the Dutch keeper with almost the last kick of the game, but the goalpost denied him. It stayed 2-2 after extra time & that was the game, with an impending penalty shootout to decide the winner. 

This was no normal shootout though. Drama followed here too. Be it with Noppert’s method of giving the ball to the Argentine penalty takers or be it Dumfries’ idea to intimidate the Argentine players. Van Gaal said they were prepared for Argentina, but evidently, they had not prepared for Emiliano Martinez.

The Argentine goalkeeper made saves to deny Van Dijk & Berghuis in the shootout.

Argentina subsequently won the shootout because of Martinez’s heroics in goal and qualified for the semi-finals after a frenetic clash.

The result was rather reminiscent of their 2014 clash, where the Dutch were sent home yet again by sheer Argentine grit & desire. But despite losing on penalties, the Netherlands can go home with their heads held high after that remarkable comeback, which made for one of the most exciting games to watch at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Also read: Croatia v Brazil – Tactics & Match Report: FIFA WC 2022

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