Not since 1994 have the 2010 runners-up failed to win a quarter-final match at the World Cup, and the Netherlands’ unbeaten streak in all competitions now stands at a whopping 19 matches, but something has to give when two attacking heavyweights battle for supremacy.
The script had been written for Lionel Messi to end his knockout hoodoo in his 1,000th career match, and the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner finally scored his first non-group stage World Cup goal in trademark Messi fashion against Australia, who did not go down waving the white flag.
Argentina most recently progressed from the quarter-finals in 2014 en route to finishing as runners-up, but they had lost their last three ties in the last eight before that in 1998, 2006 and 2010, and their hopes of glory have ended at the hands of European teams nine times in a row since the inaugural 1930 edition.
Indeed, Argentina have failed to score in each of their last three matches versus the Netherlands, who have held La Albiceleste to two 0-0 draws in their most recent two World Cup meetings – winning the 2014 semi-final on spot kicks – but the last thing that the Qatar tournament needs is yet another goalless affair.
The Netherlands were briefly handed a scare with Jeremie Frimpong (ankle) before the win over the USA, but the Bayer Leverkusen right-back formed part of a fully-fit squad for that game, and Van Gaal should have everyone available for the quarter-final too.
Inter Milan centre-back Stefan de Vrij could not train on Sunday due to discomfort, but he has since returned to the group to challenge the established order of Jurrien Timber, Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake, although he will likely be fighting a losing battle there.
As far as Argentina are concerned, Sevilla attacker Papu Gomez came off with a sprained ankle in the 50th minute against Australia and is a doubt for the contest, but Angel Di Maria is stepping up his recovery from a quadriceps problem and should be fit to replace his stricken teammate.
The likes of Angel Correa and Leandro Paredes were put through their paces in a training ground XI earlier this week, but neither man will be expected to edge out Di Maria or the impressive Enzo Fernandez for a start in the quarter-final.
Possible starting lineup:
Data will be available at kick off time or sooner.
Netherlands = 43.3%
Draw = 21.2%
Argentina = 35.5%
Netherlands 2-1 Argentina
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