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Netherlands v USA Preview: Netherlands face tricky test against youthful USA

The knockout stages of the World Cup begin on Saturday with an intriguing last 16 tie between the Netherlands and the USA.

The Dutch arrived at the tournament in excellent form under veteran coach Louis van Gaal. and topped Group A with seven points out of nine.

However, the USA also showed their quality in Group B, holding England to a goalless draw on matchday two before sealing qualification with a gutsy 1-0 win over Iran.

What: Netherlands v USA, World Cup
Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar
When: 15:00, Saturday 3rd December
How to watch: BBC1
Odds: Netherlands 10/11, Draw 12/5, USA 7/2

Long unbeaten run raises Dutch expectations

The Netherlands lost to the Czech Republic at the last 16 stage of Euro 2020, having had centre-back Matthijs de Ligt sent off when the score was 0-0, but they are unbeaten in 18 internationals since that disappointment.

Vastly experienced coach Van Gaal led the Dutch to the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, where they lost on penalties to Argentina, and his side are 10/11 to beat the USA in 90 minutes on Saturday.

Expectations have also been raised by an impressive 2022/23 Nations League campaign in which the Netherlands beat neighbours Belgium home and away, and they made a winning start to their World Cup campaign, defeating African champions Senegal 2-0 thanks to late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen.

Highly-rated PSV forward Gakpo gave them a sixth-minute lead in their second Group A fixture against Ecuador, but the South Americans came back strongly and were good value for a 1-1 draw.

Ecuador's performance against the Dutch should encourage the USA who, like La Tri, are a young side without much tournament experience, but with plenty of pace at the back and energy in midfield.

The Netherlands secured top spot in the section with a comfortable 2-0 win over World Cup hosts Qatar in which Gakpo - the leading goalscorer in this season's Eredivisie - opened the scoring for the third game running.

He is 15/2 to be the First Goalscorer against the USA, although Van Gaal will be hoping for a more significant contribution from star man Memphis Depay, who is 4/1 to break the deadlock in the last 16 tie.

Barcelona forward Depay came into the tournament under an injury cloud and was restricted to substitute appearances in the first two group games.

He started alongside Gakpo against Qatar, racking up five shots at goal in 66 minutes, and the Dutch will be delighted by the return to fitness of a player who scored 12 goals and claimed six assists in 10 World Cup qualifying matches.

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States show character to secure last 16 spot

The USA suffered a setback in their opening Group B match as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Wales, who equalised through a Gareth Bale penalty in the last 10 minutes.

Gregg Berhalter had named a 26-man squad featuring only one player - full-back DeAndre Yedlin - with experience of playing at a World Cup finals, so there were concerns about how the US would respond in their second game against section favourites England.

They stood firm in a goalless draw with the Three Lions, who had put six goals past Iran in their opener, and that display should boost the USA's belief that they can compete with a star-studded Netherlands side on Saturday.

Berhalter's young team also had to dig deep in a must-win game against Iran, who were buoyed by their victory over Wales on matchday two.

The USA restricted Iran to just one shot on target as Chelsea's Christian Pulisic scored the only goal of the game seven minutes before half-time, and it is 8/13 that Saturday's clash, like all three of the Americans' group fixtures, produces Under 2.5 Goals.

American midfield could knock Dutch off their stride

USA hero Pulisic suffered an injury while scoring the winner against Iran and was taken to hospital at half-time, but he is confident of being fit to play this weekend.

The Chelsea man is a crucial player for his country, who are short of reliable goalscorers, although the lively Timothy Weah scored against Wales and had an effort ruled out for offside against Iran.

The Netherlands, World Cup finalists in 2010 and semi-finalists four years later, clearly have the superior tournament pedigree.

With the shrewd Van Gaal, 71, in the dugout, star forward Depay getting sharper with every game, and Virgil van Dijk - who missed Euro 2020 through injury - anchoring the back three, they should have the composure and quality to progress to the quarter-finals.

However, the Dutch were unsettled by Ecuador, who had 15 shots to the Oranje's two in their second group game, and an all-action USA midfield of Valencia's Yunus Musah, Leeds man Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie of Juventus is capable of disrupting the Dutch rhythm.

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