World Cup Viewer’s Guide: Americans face the Netherlands
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Christian Pulisic became an American star with the winning goal — and the injury he got while scoring it — that lifted the United States into the round of 16 at the World Cup.
He injured his pelvic bone, Pulisic insisted, when he collided with Iran’s goalkeeper on the goal that sent him to the hospital as the United States won 1-0 and advanced in soccer’s biggest tournament.
Pulisic was cleared to play Saturday, when the Americans face the Netherlands in the knockout round.
Everybody expected him to be on the field even before doctors gave him the medical go-ahead on Friday.
“I will do everything in my power to work with this medical team and make sure that I can play,” Pulisic said of his intention to be on the field.
The United States is trying to get to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002 and continue to delight the American audience, which has tuned into the first three matches in record numbers.
A win against the Netherlands might be enough to convince fans back at home that the United States can, indeed, compete on the biggest stage in soccer.
“The support from the U.S. has been a bit surreal,” captain Tyler Adams said. “My dad’s a teacher at school, and they were all watching during their classes, the game and supporting me. And I was getting videos from the family, all the watch parties in my town and whatnot.
“It’s really, really cool to see how much just a tournament can change that perspective on people supporting soccer.”
The United States is winless in its last 11 World Cup games against European teams, a streak that includes five losses and six draws. On Saturday, the Americans face a Dutch squad that, like several other World Cup teams at this tournament, is battling the flu. The bug ran through the U.S. squad last week.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal gave his team the day off on Thursday instead of running a typical 11-on-11 match.
“I gave them a day of rest,” Van Gaal said Friday. “With this group, they communicate that to me. I listen to my players.”
He declined to elaborate on how many players are affected, but by abandoning the typical training schedule Van Gaal created speculation that at least six players are ill.
“We are not going to elaborate on that,” he said. “But if it goes around in the group, it is worrying.”
Frenkie de Jong has said a scratchy throat disrupted his ability to communicate during a victory over Qatar, and Marten de Roon told reporters he had a cold earlier this week.
Netherlands midfielder Cody Gapko is trying to become the first player from his country to score in four straight World Cup matches, and the Dutch team is on an 18-game winning streak that the United States is determined to snap.
“We felt a responsibility to use this World Cup to create momentum in the United States for soccer,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “And that’s why we want to keep going and we want to keep doing well and make the country proud.”
Lionel Messi goes into yet another match that could be his last on the World Cup stage.
“No one expects us to win,” Australia forward Mathew Leckie said. “So let’s shock the world.”
Argentina was shocked by Saudi Arabia in its opening match and had to beat Poland earlier this week to ensure that Messi could continue in his fifth World Cup. One of the greatest players of all-time has never won this tournament, and this one in Qatar is expected to be his last.
Argentina turned a corner with wins over Mexico and Poland and emerged as the winner of Group C to face Australia, ranked 38th in the world. Australia is in the knockout round for only the second time, its previous trip a 1-0 loss to Italy in 2006.
Argentina won’t take Australia for granted, even though it has five wins, one draw and one loss in eight meetings dating to 1988. This is the first match between the two teams since 2007.
“We know, at the moment, everything is very difficult,” Messi said. “All the opponents are complicated. We know it as well as anyone.”
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