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Soccer Preview: Argentina advantageous over Dutch in the clash of favourites
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14:55, August 15, 2008

Thursday will witness two of the Olympic tournament's favourites: Argentina and the Netherlands clash in a men's soccer quarterfinals. The Oranje is likely to be the defending champions' toughest rivals so far, but the Argentines have enough reason to cruise through.

Lionel Messi and Juan Riquelme's side have shown great form since the start, topping Group A after three straight wins. Messi and Riquelme had good partnership in the midfield, and Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago functioned well as two holding midfielders, which have given enough cannonballs for strikers Ezquiel Lavezzi and Sergio Aguero.

Lavezzi scored two goals in the last two matches, but Aguero needs to improve his form with bare hands.

Riquelme and Messi are the deadly weapons of the Albiceleste. The duo can broke the deadlock on their own, which has been illustrated in the 2-1 win over the Ivorians and the 1-0 victory over the Aussies. Riquelme and Messi understood each other quite well and were great to split defence with sudden wall-passes.

However, even without the magic pair, Argentina could still beat the Serbians 2-0 with their second-choiced squad. It's a good phenomenon as the champions always have good bench depth. Benfica's Angel Di Maria, Sevilla's Lautaro Acosta and Diego Buonanotte are all super substitutes to change the result.

"We mustn't underestimate the Netherlands, a team with great individuals and who play great football. We're Argentina and as such we're aiming for gold, but we'll respect every opponent that crosses our path. That is our formula," said Argentina head coach Sergio Batist.

On contrary to Argentina's brilliance, the Dutch side could not live up to the expectations as favourites and staggered into the knockout stage. After two draws with Nigeria and the United States, the Oranje fought hard to seal late qualification thanks to a penalty from Gerald Sibon.

On paper the lowlanders have some great offensive players like Sibon, Ryan Babel, Roy Makaay, Hedwiges Maduro and Royston Drenthe, but there seemed to be a lack of connection among these individuals. So the Dutch may find it hard to counter the Argentine pressure. Makaay just recovered from injury and the veteran striker's experience may do some help in the heighweight game.

The two sides have some memorable meetings on world stage. Argentina beat the Netherlands to win the 1978 World Cup on home soil, and a famous cool goal from Dennis Bergkamp killed the Albiceleste in the quarterfinal at France 1998. They were bundled together in a "Group of Death" at Germany 2006, but both qualified after two matches and then played a peaceful 0-0 draw.

Source:Xinhua

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