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One can dream: Messi is one step closer to his first World Cup Championship

by Ron Poblete

THE second round of the World Cup is underway. The first two matches pitted two established teams, Netherlands and Argentina against two teams on the rise, USA and Australia respectively.

Just when people were starting to expect more upsets which seems to be the trend in this World Cup. This time it went as predicted in the last 16.

Number 8 ranked Netherlands beat USA 3-1 and number 3 ranked and Lionel Messi led Argentina squeaked out a 2-1 win. 

USA started on the front foot with Chelsea FC star Christian Pulisic having the first chance on goal. Darting from the left, the ball fell in front of him, beating the offside and with only the keeper to beat, his shot was blocked by Dutch rookie goalkeeper Andries Noppert. 

The Dutch were forced to defend the American’s aggressive high press as seen in the amount of recorded possession with the USA holding the ball majority of the time at 58 percent to Netherlands 42 percent.

The problem is the Americans couldn’t finish their attempts while the Dutch were able to score on the counter twice in the first half. This is the first time in the tournament that the US gave up a goal in open play. 

Things became ominous as the Dutch team pounced on the little opportunities and were ruthless on goal. The Netherlands were leading 2-nil at the half. 

The American’s opened the first half determined to make up for their mistakes and from going two goals down heading into the final 45 minutes. They were able to do that momentarily with what seemed to be a lucky deflection from substitute striker Haji Wright’s trailing foot from Pulisic’s cut back which had the ball loop over the dutch keeper and a defender. 

Photo Courtesy USMNT Twitter

The American’s comeback and the fan’s excitement would be short lived though as the Dutch scored another goal from an unmarked Denzel Dumfries in the 81st minute which would complete the final score. 

The Americans perhaps were not used to dominating possession and at times struggled with efficiency. If by grand design, the dutch were instructed to sit back by decorated coach Louis Van Gaal then the plan worked to perfection. 

Messi was vintage Messi in the second game of eliminations. He scored on a pass from central defender Nicolas Otomendi after his free kick into the 6 yard box was repelled by the Australian keeper and possession recycled by midfielder Alexis Mac Allister. 

The second goal came from a high press after a throw-in which caused an error at the backline. A poor pass back from defender Kye Rowle to the keeper was intercepted by Argentinian forward Julian Tavares, who slotted the second goal into the net for a little cushion in the second half. 

There was a brief scare in the 77th minute as Aussie forward Craig Goodwin’s shot from 25 yards took a deflection off Argentinian starlet Enzo Fernandez’s face that wrong footed his keeper. 

But the results were never in doubt as there was no denying Lionel Messi’s progress to the quarter finals of the Qatar World Cup where they will face the Netherlands. 

Could be fate. There might just be a Messi Vs Ronaldo in the Final? That’s going to be epic. 

Photos Courtesy FIFA



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