Netherlands v Qataer line-ups
Netherlands: Andries Noppert, Daley Blind, Nathan Ake, Virgil van Dijk (c), Jurrien Timber, Denzel Dumfries, Marten de Roon, Davy Klaassen, Frenkie de Jong, Cody Gakpo, Memphis Depay.
Qatar: Meshaal Barsham, Pedro Miguel, Abdelkarim Hassan, Abdelaziz Hatim, Hassan Al-Haydos (c), Akram Afif, Ismail Mohamad, Homam Ahmed, Assim Madibo, Boualem Khoukhi, Almoez Ali.
Louis van Gaal: “I think you always have to identify the goal, the purpose for which you are here and then you can work your way toward that purpose,” said the Netherlands manager when asked about his pre-tournament announcement that the Netherlands would win the tournament. “If you say ‘Well, the round of 16 is enough, the quarter-finals are enough’, that isn’t the right way to do things. The right way to do things is to think you will become champions. I never said that we’re going to become world champions, but that we can become this.”
Felix Sanchez: “When you play against a team such as the Netherlands, you don’t need any motivation,” said Qatar’s manager in his pre-match press conference. “It’s a challenge for our players to face such a team. This was a very demanding group for us. We’ve competed with our ups and downs. We’d have preferred to be in a better situation.
“I think these players have achieved a great deal over the last years. Now we need to be aware that to compete at this level, we are still lagging behind. I think if we work at this on a daily basis, gradually we will be closer to this level. I don’t feel disappointed or embarrassed. The World Cup is the most demanding competition, and only a few can be here. We are still slightly behind. The country will continue working so that the next time Qatar comes to a World Cup, hopefully soon, we’ll be able to compete better than we did this time.”
Today’s match officials
Early team news
Dutch players Memphis Depay and Marten De Roon came into the tournament nursing injuries but both featured off the bench in the Netherlands’ draw with Ecuador but may start on the bench again today. A goalscorer in both of his nations in this tournament so far, Cody Gakpo is likely to start again.
Having seen the manner in which he and his PSV Eindhoven teammate Xavi Simons tore Arsenal’s defence apart at the Philips Stadion earlier this seaason, I’m hopeful that Van Gaal will give the exciting but as yet uncapped 19-year-old his international debut at some point this afternoon.
Qatar manager Felix Sanchez has a fully fit squad of players to choose from and may hand Mohammed Muntari a start ahead of Assin Madibo after the Al Duhail striker came off the bench to score his side’s only goal of the tournament so far against Senegal.
Group A: Netherlands v Qatar
The giant Bedouin tent that is Al Bayt Stadium plays host to one of two Group A games being played simultaneously this afternoon. The Netherlands go into this game knowing that just a draw will guarantee their passage to the knockout rounds, while Qatar are playing for nothing more than pride as they try to avoid the acute ignominy of becoming the first host nation in World Cup history to exit the tournament without securing so much as a single point.
In the extremely unlikely event that they beat the Dutch, Louis van Gaal’s side could still advance to the Round of 16 if Ecuador beat Senegal in the group’s other match. Kick-off in Al Khor is at 3pm (GMT) but stay tuned in the meantime for team news and build-up.