The 2022 edition of the World Cup is heating up nicely, with Argentina and the Netherlands meeting at the quarter-final stage in a game that is likely to be one for the football purists.
Both sides have bulged with talent over the years, from Johan Cruyff to Diego Maradona and Dennis Bergkamp to Sergio Aguero, and the pair boasted two of the more talented squads in the tournament heading to Qatar.
Narratives galore could plague the tie, whether it be the continued rise of Cody Gakpo or the summit of Lionel Messi’s footballing career, it is one of the more enticing quarter-finals from two sides that have at times been easy on the eye, and at times ground out results despite their considerable talent.
With this in mind, 101 Great Goals takes a look at the best-combined XI from both nations so far this tournament.
- GK: Emiliano Martinez (Agrentina) - The Aston Villa shot-stopper always saves his best form for international football, and is a commanding presence in between the sticks for the Albiceleste. His save late on against Australia prevented a much closer finish, and while Noppert has impressed in goal for the Netherlands, one man was always going to win this one.
- RB: Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)- It has been another impressive international tournament for Dumfries, who earned his move to the Serie A on the back of an outstanding Euro 2020. A year on, he has once again proved key to Louis Van Gaal’s side, providing two assists and a goal in their round of 16 clash with the USA.
- CB: Virgil Van Dijk (Netherlands)- Europe’s premier central defender and still at the top of his game, Van Dijk is key both for Liverpool and the Netherlands and would be a starter for just about every team in world football. Comfortable in a back three and a back four, his position in this side was never in doubt.
- CB: Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina) - While Otamendi may be well past his best for Premier League football, his ability at the international level cannot be questioned. While Premier League pair Cristian Romero and Lisandro Martinez continue to trade places in Lionel Scaloni’s defence, the 34-year-old defender has played every minute of their World Cup campaign to date and hasn’t looked a bit out of place.
- LB: Daley Blind (Netherlands) - The fact that Blind makes it in here probably tells you the lack of choice for this spot coming out of Lionel Scaloni’s side, with Marcos Acuna and Nicolas Tagliafico both sharing duties so far, and neither to particularly great effect. The former Manchester United man, however, has been solid from left wing-back despite his advancing years.
- CM: Rodrigo de Paul (Argentina) - Nicknamed ‘Messi’s bodyguard’, De Paul has attempted the most passes at the tournament to date of any midfielder, and after a poor first game he has returned to some of his best form in the centre of the Albiceleste midfield. Set to be up against De Jong, he will have to bring his best to ensure that his side pick up any sort of result.
- CM: Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands) - The hub of creativity and ball progression for the Netherlands. Frenkie de Jong is one of the world’s best midfielders and his talents are truly showcased under Louis Van Gaal. Constantly driving forward with the ball from midfield, the 25-year-old will need to be watched closely by Argentina, or he will likely prove their undoing.
- CM: Alexis MacAllister (Argentina) - Since coming into the side, MacAllister has changed the fortunes of Argentina, and the Brighton man’s tenacity and energy has been a key factor for his side. Boasting an excellent all-round game, he may not be with the Seagulls much longer.
- RW: Cody Gakpo (Netherlands) - It has been some tournament for Gakpo, who has continued his brilliant Eredivisie form into the World Cup with three goals in four games. With a move almost certain when the competition is over, his is a name that fans will have on their lips for years to come.
- ST: Lionel Messi (Argentina) - Who else? After a slow start to the tournament, Messi has truly burst into life, turning in back-to-back world class performances to help his side into the quarter-finals, including a sublime opener against Australia in his 1000th professional game.
- LW: Julian Alvarez (Argentina) - Manchester City snapped up Alvarez last January, and he is already showing why at both club and international level. Already having succeeded Lautaro Martinez in Lionel Scaloni’s lineup, he has grabbed two goals already this tournament and could be a major threat to Le Oranje.