Jurrien Timber is not shaking at the prospect of facing Lionel Messi but says it will be a “great challenge”.
Netherlands defender Timber will be tasked with trying to stop arguably the best footballer in the world on Friday when Louis van Gaal’s side take on Argentina in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Messi has scored three goals at Qatar 2022 and gave a virtuoso display as Argentina edged out Australia 2-1 on Saturday.
Keeping the Paris Saint-Germain star quiet will be key to the Netherlands’ chances of progressing to the semi-finals but Timber is up for the challenge.
Sitting alongside fellow defender Nathan Ake, he said: “Am I getting the shakes [at the prospect of facing him]? Fortunately not.
“It’s a great challenge to play against him. Messi is a fantastic footballer, but we aren’t just playing against Messi and we don’t have to solve it with the two of us.
“We’re going to do that with the team.”
Ake added: “It’s very difficult to stop him. He’s probably the best player in the world but we have to be wary of several players.”
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Another key man in the Dutch defence is captain Virgil van Dijk and he also felt it would be foolhardy to train all their focus on Messi.
He said: “They have a good team with many players that can decide the match.
“But it’s not the Netherlands against Messi, it’s the Netherlands against Argentina. I have a lot of respect for Messi, who, like Cristiano Ronaldo, has been among the best in football for so long. He deserves special attention but they also have Julian Alvarez, he has a bright future ahead of him at Manchester City and Argentina. But hopefully not in two days, here in Qatar.”
The main question for Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is whether to start again with a 4-3-3 formation or switch to the 3-5-2 they finished with against Australia.
If it’s the former, it may see a return to the starting line-up for Angel Di Maria, if he can prove his fitness. If Scaloni opts for a three-man defence, then Lisandro Martinez will be included at the expense of Papu Gomez.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Netherlands – Memphis Depay
Depay has been the Netherlands’ creative hub, not just in Qatar, but for many months.
The Barcelona attacker has been involved in 34 goals in his last 30 appearances for Netherlands in all competitions, scoring 24 and assisting 10.
Argentina – Julian Alvarez
Having started the tournament behind Lautaro Martinez, Alvarez has emerged as the main foil for Lionel Messi.
Alvarez has scored in each of his two World Cup starts. Only three Argentina players have scored in their first three; Guillermo Stabile in 1930, Oreste Corbatta in 1958 and Hernan Crespo in 2006. If he starts and scores in this match, at 22 years and 312 days of age, he’d be the youngest to score in his first three World Cup starts since Peru’s Teofilo Cubillas in 1970 (21y 94d).
Argentina are a 44.2 per cent chance to emerge victorious and progress to the semi-finals, according to Stats Perform’s AI computer.
The Netherlands are rated at 27.1 per cent chance with a draw coming in at 28.7 per cent.