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World Cup 2022: Why to expect a Netherlands clean sheet against the USA

World Cup 2022: Why to expect a Netherlands clean sheet against the USA

The World Cup 2022 last-16 phase gets underway when the Netherlands take on the USA at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Louis van Gaal‘s side finished first in Group A with Ecuador, Senegal and hosts Qatar, whom they beat 2-0 on the final matchday to set up a tie with the Group B runners-up.

Meanwhile, the USA clinched a place in the knockout stages after a narrow 1-0 win over Iran in midweek, but Oranje are the firm favourites coming into the weekend’s encounter.

Most of the plaudits so far have unsurprisingly gone to prolific attacker Cody Gakpo, who scored in all three of the Netherlands’ group fixtures and could now become the first Dutchman in history to score in four World Cup games on the bounce.

As much as Gakpo’s ruthlessness will need to come into play for the Netherlands to stand a chance of advancing, a steadfast defence has been the theme for Van Gaal’s side at World Cups, and it has been no different this time around.

The Dutch have only shipped one goal at the 2022 World Cup so far, which came in their 1-1 draw with Ecuador on matchday two, and their defensive record in knockout matches speaks for itself.

Cody Gakpo celebrates scoring for Netherlands against Qatar at the World Cup on November 29, 2022.© Reuters

Indeed, the 2010 runners-up have kept three successive clean sheets in World Cup knockout games under Van Gaal, who led the Dutch to the semi-finals of the 2014 edition.

The Netherlands kept Costa Rica and Argentina at bay in the 2014 knockout rounds, losing to the latter on penalties after a 0-0 draw, while they thumped Brazil 3-0 in the third-placed playoff.

A piece of World Cup history could now be made by the Netherlands, who are aiming to become only the second team ever to keep four successive clean sheets in the knockout rounds after the triumphant Spain team of 2010.

Oranje’s strong rearguard record is no surprise given that Virgil van Dijk, Jurrien Timber, Nathan Ake, Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan de Vrij are all at Van Gaal’s disposal, and even if teams can break down the Netherlands’ three-man backline, a 6’7″ Andries Noppert is then standing in their way.

Furthermore, the USA have only scored two goals in their last five games in all tournaments, both of which involved a direct contribution from Christian Pulisic, but the Chelsea attacker is a slight doubt for the contest with a pelvic injury.

Joshua Sargent and Weston McKennie will also be touch and go for the match due to their own fitness concerns, so the USA will have their work cut out for them if they are to breach a dogged Dutch defence.

Read more on Netherlands vs USA

Click here to read our full preview for Netherlands vs USA
How the Netherlands could line up against the USA
How the USA could line up against the Netherlands
World Cup 2022: Netherlands vs. USA head-to-head record

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