|Lionel Messi's goal broke the deadlock against Australia, in his 1,000th official game. — AFP/VNA Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Favourites Holland and Argentina are through to the quarterfinals and will face each other on December 10.
While the Netherlands found an easy 3-1 win against an inexperienced USA side, Argentina almost had a last-minute heartbreak in their match against Australia.
Gregg Berhalter's USA tried to use the Dutch's plays against them, going all-out attack in the first few minutes. Holland were clever to stay back and calmly waited for their opportunity.
In their first shot on target, Louis Van Gaal's men got the opening goal. A great short passing play found Cody Gakpo, who sprinted before finding Denzel Dumfries on the right.
Dumfries's first-time cross met Memphis Depay who fired in from outside the box, and the 84 kph shot was too hard for Matt Turner to save.
The USA had a lot of possession in the match, especially in the second half but were rarely in a good position to score. In a similar manner to the first goal, Holland doubled their lead.
Dumfries once again was through in the right wing and found Daley Blind who was free outside the six-yard box. The former Man Utd man fired a shot that made Matt Turner stand still, unable to react.
The Stars and Stripes seemed to have found their way back late into the game when Haji Wright equalised with a strange goal. From Christian Pulisic's cross, Wright ran across and touched the ball with his heel, and the ball flew with a peculiar trajectory into Andries Noppert's net.
The Americans pushed on for the equaliser, and left spaces behind in their defence. Dumfries completed his man-of-the-match performance by scoring Holland's third and sealed the ticket for the quarterfinals in the 81st minute.
Holland will progress to the quarters for the seventh time in their history.
Another person also waiting to make history was Lionel Messi, who faces Australia in his 1,000th official football game.
Against an opponent pundits regarded as the easiest draw in the Round of 16, La Albiceleste was met with difficulties in the early stages of the game.
No shot on target was recorded before the 35th minute until Messi Magic came along.
The Argentine maestro dribbled past five Australian defenders before curling a shot into the bottom corner that beat Mat Ryan.
This was Messi's ninth goal at the World Cup and his first in a knockout game.
Australia again was unconcentrated in defence. From a great pressing play, Julian Alvarez stole the ball right from Mat Ryan's feet and scored in the empty net, doubling Argentina's lead.
When everybody thought that Argentina was going to comfortably win the match, Craig Goodwin silenced the Argentinian crowd with a 20-metre shot that rebounded off Enzo Fernandez into Emiliano Martinez's net.
Minutes later, Aziz Behich danced through three Argentinian defenders and fired a shot, but Lisandro Martinez was able to stop it at the last second.
Argentina also had responses, but another Martinez, namedly Lautaro, was wasteful with his chances and could not put the game to bed.
La Albiceleste almost had to pay for Lautaro Martinez's blunders, when Garang Kuol's had a chance for Australia to equalise in the final minute of extra time. The 18-year-old's shot, however, was heroically saved by Emiliano Martinez, and the game ended 2-1 to Argentina. — VNS