‘I don’t think they’re the hardest opponent’: Ex-USA coach Bruce Arena says USMNT can beat the Netherlands in and reach the World Cup quarterfinal for just the SECOND time in history
Former USA coach Bruce Arena has told the USMNT that the Netherlands are not ‘the hardest opponent’ in what he says is ‘a winnable game’ in the last-16 of the World Cup.
USA defeated Iran 1-0 thanks to a brave first-half goal from Christian Pulisic and finished second in Group B, setting up a knockout tie with the Netherlands, who won Group A.
They have a number of stand-out players – Cody Gakpo has impressed in attack, midfielder Frenkie de Jong plays for Barcelona and center back Virgil van Dijk, who plays for Liverpool, is widely considered one of the best defenders in the game.
Bruce Arena says the USA have a very winnable last-16 World Cup tie against the Netherlands
USA advanced into the last-16 with a narrow 1-0 win against Iran on Tuesday in Qatar
But Arena believes as a team, the USA can emerge victorious.
‘This knockout game should be an end-to-end affair with two teams looking to attack,’ Arena told MLSsoccer.com. ‘The US can beat them; I don’t think they’re the hardest opponent.’
Victory would send the US into the quarterfinal and equal its best ever run in tournament – which was the QF in the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea.
Arena was the coach of that US team
Arena also praised the standard of performance against Iran, where the US had to hold on through nine agonizing minutes of added time to seal progress.
‘The US showed great maturity in the first half to maintain concentration when they searched for quality chances,; he said. ‘But the first goal before halftime was huge and the approach to start the second half was very good.
Christian Pulisic scored the winning goal for USA in the 38th minute against Iran
Netherlands striker Cody Gakpo is a dangerman and has scored three goals already
‘As predicted, Iran employed a defensive posture and looked for an occasional counter-attack. The US got their breakthrough and saw out the game.
‘The midfield play between Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie was outstanding. Overall, the team did an outstanding job to walk off the field with three points.’
The US game against the Netherlands is on Saturday at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar.