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World Cup 2022 Daily Preview: USMNT/Netherlands, Argentina/Australia open Round of 16

The knockout stage begins on Saturday.

Iran v USA -World Cup Photo by Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images

And then, there were 16.

After 32 teams entered the World Cup, half of them have been eliminated as the knockout stages begin on Saturday. This time, there’s no margin for error: a loss spells the end of the line. Things start out with Group B’s runner up (the United States) and Group A winner the Netherlands, while Argentina — who shook off a surprising loss to Saudi Arabia to win Group C — faces Group D 2nd-place finisher Australia. The winners of Saturday’s matches play each other in the quarterfinals on Friday.

USA vs. Netherlands — 10:00 a.m.

How to Watch

FOX, Telemundo, Peacock (premium)

The Matchup

The U.S. did what it needed to do: after draws against Wales and England, it gutted out a 1-0 win over Iran to advance through a 38th minute Christian Pulisic goal. Perhaps the Wales match should have been 3 points, and yes, it hasn’t been a pretty path to the knockout stage, but all that matters is that the Americans are here.

The big story for the Dutch will be the flu outbreak that has crept up within the team’s ranks in the past few days. Louis van Gaal hasn’t tipped his hand as to who’s been hit the hardest, but that will be a major talking point throughout the contest.

Player to Watch: Christian Pulisic

Soccer: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022-Iran at USA Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Pulisic will be available for the match after taking a shot to…well, the nether regions after scoring the eventual winner against Iran. With it being win-or-go home the rest of the way, the face of the program will be one of the players looking for a signature moment to send the USMNT to its 1st quarterfinal appearance since 2002.

Argentina vs. Australia — 2 p.m.

How to Watch

FOX, Telemundo, Peacock (premium)

The Matchup

After a stunning 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, La Albiceleste found itself back in the driver’s seat with a pair of 2-0 wins over Mexico and Poland to win Group C. One would think, in that case, that the pressure is off the Socceroos after getting blown out by France in Group D only to secure passage with 1-0 wins over Tunisia and Denmark since on paper, this looks like Argentina’s match to lose. But this tournament has had a funny way of springing unexpected results on us.

Player to Watch: Lionel Messi

Soccer: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022-Argentina at Poland Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Messi scored a pair of goals for Argentina during the group stage (one from the penalty spot). He’ll be the main focus of the Australian defense all match long as his team will look to avoid crashing out of the Round of 16 for a 2nd straight World Cup.