Messi milestones, effective Dutch and proud Australia: Five takeaways from day 14 of World Cup 2022

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring for Argentina against Australia at World Cup 2022.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Two weeks of the 2022 World Cup have already elapsed and on day 14, the knockout stages got underway with two last-16 matches.

In the first of those, Netherlands beat USA 3-1 to seal their place in the last eight, thanks to goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries.

And later in the day, Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez were on target as Argentina edged out Australia to set up a quarter-final against Louis van Gaal's side.

With 14 teams now left in at Qatar 2022, here is a look at the major talking points from day 14 of the World Cup:

Messi milestones keep Argentina dreaming

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring for Argentina against Australia at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It as Lionel Messi's 1,000th senior appearance for club and country. It was his 100th game as captain of Argentina. And after 35 minutes, he scored his first goal in the knockout stages of a World Cup.

That goal also took him past the great Diego Maradona on World Cup goals. But more importantly, it set the Albiceleste on their way to another vital victory.

It was not all straightforward as Australia got back into the game in the second half, but Messi grew as the night wore on and set up Lautaro Martinez for two superb chances late on. Both were missed and Australia had an opportunity to level it right at the end, but Argentina deserved their 2-1 win.

After the game, Messi was all smiles as he and his team-mates saluted the passionate Argentine fans inside the stadium in Al Rayyan. On a night of landmarks for their inspirational captain, the dream is still very much alive.

Australia head home with heads held high

Australia's players applaud their fans after their World Cup last-16 defeat to Argentina.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Australia were playing in their fifth successive World Cup, but not much had gone right for the Socceroos since they made the last 16 at Germany 2006.

Eliminated in the group stages in 2010, 2014 and 2018, little was expected this time around and although Australia took the lead in their opening game against France, the defending champions responded with four goals without reply.

But John Arnold's side have been hugely impressive since, beating Tunisia and then Denmark to come through the group level on points with France and giving Argentina a good game on Saturday.

The Socceroos defended admirably in the first half, when they were undone only by a moment of Lionel Messi brilliance, and got a goal back at 2-0 down to give themselves a chance of a shock result against one of the pre-tournament favourites.

It seems football is back in vogue in Australia. The old FFA has been replaced by Football Australia, while a new second division will start life next year and the women's World Cup will be hosted by Australia – along with New Zealand – in 2023.

Hopefully, their strong showing this time can be a platform for future success. In the meantime, Australia head home – but with their heads held high.

Netherlands here to win, not entertain

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal during his side's World Cup win over USA.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So taken aback by the accusation that his side played boring football was Louis van Gaal that he told a critical journalist to ‘go home’ rather than watch the Netherlands reach the final of World Cup 2022.

The Dutch took one step closer by assuredly dispatching the USA 3-1 in the last 16 – and while you’d be hard-pushed to make a case for their play belonging in the ‘entertaining’ bracket, it was far from as turgid as some would have you think.

More functional than breathtaking? Perhaps, but the Oranje’s opener – a slick, back-to-front team move finished off with a sweeping finish by Memphis Depay – was one of the goals of the tournament so far. They have got that in their locker.

Whether the Netherlands have what it takes to go all the way in what will be Van Gaal’s last tournament as manager remains to be seen – but there’s a reason their veteran boss hasn’t lost a competitive match in charge of his country in 90 minutes...

The USA are building something

USA, World Cup 2022

(Image credit: Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images)

For the third successive World Cup, the USA failed to make it beyond the last 16 – but nonetheless, they gave one of their best-ever showings on this stage, which bodes well for their co-hosting duties in 2026 (which they'll share with Canada and Mexico).

Gregg Berhalter's side were perhaps unlucky not to win their group – they were arguably the better team in their goalless draw with England, which they attacked with the same vivacity as each of their four games in Qatar – and doing so would have set up a favourable-looking last-16 clash with Senegal.

Alas, it was not to be for the USMNT, who bowed out of the tournament with a 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands, by whom they were largely outclassed.

That loss showed that there is still work to be done over the next four years if the States are to narrow the gap to the world's top footballing powers – but they're not all that far off.

The lack of a quality centre-forward remains the biggest issue – elsewhere, star man Christian Pulisic really stepped up to the plate, while fellow winger Timothy Weah and goalkeeper Matt Turner also shone) – but Jesus Ferreira is still only 21 and other youngsters who didn't make the squad this time around, like 19-year-old Ricardo Pepi, have room to grow between now and then.

In any case, the USA will qualify for the 2026 World Cup automatically as hosts, so they can focus their full attention on those finals.

Pele still means so much to the World Cup

Pele pictured with the World Cup trophy ahead of Brazil 2014.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There was sad news on Saturday as it was reported by Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo that Brazilian legend Pele was receiving palliative care after he had failed to respond to chemotherapy treatment.

Brazil's fans had raised a huge banner in tribute to their legend on Friday, ahead of their game against Cameroon, and some modern-day icons showed their support to the 82-year-old on Saturday.

"Pray for the King," France forward Kylian Mbappe wrote on Twitter. And later, Brazil forward Neymar's official site tweeted: "Strength, Pele. We are praying for your health, King."

On Twitter, many posted pictures, with one iconic image of a poster from a theatre wall in Guadalajara during Mexico 1970. "Today, we're not going to work because we are going to watch Pele," it read.

Pele is the only player who has won the World Cup three times. The last of those may have been in that 1970 competition, but the response of current players and fans shows he still means absolutely everything to this tournament.

And luckily, the news later was more positive. The Brazil legend is stable and responding well to treatment for a respiratory infection, his hospital said. Long may that continue.

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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...

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