When the Netherlands ceded possession to the United States in the World Cup Round of 16, it was a departure from football history but a masterstroke from the Dutch: they knew the U.S. wouldn't have the quality to find that final pass in the attacking third and that they'd slice the Americans apart going the other direction.
A similar approach could be seen by the Netherlands at the start of its quarterfinal match against Argentina. Playing in a 3-4-1-2, the Dutch packed the middle of the park and said there's no way you're finding joy centrally.
But when you have Lionel Messi in your team, then you always have the ability to conjure the necessary quality in the final third.
In the 35th minute, Messi took possession forty yards from goal on the right. With a drop of the shoulder, the 35-year-old worked a bit of space on Nathan Aké, stole a glimpse forward and then dropped a no-look, disguised cutback through the legs of Aké, eliminating two lines of the Dutch defense, to put Nahuel Molina through on goal.
Molina's first touch was perfect and his second poked the ball beyond the advancing Andries Noppert.
ARGENTINA TAKES THE LEADNahuel Molina puts Argentina on top pic.twitter.com/ni5WtkJd7y
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 9, 2022
This no-look pass from Messi to set up the goal pic.twitter.com/92iSBzDYs0— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 9, 2022
Brb watching this pass from Messi for the rest of the day pic.twitter.com/5EM4CBwktN— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 9, 2022
Preposterous vision and sublime execution from the GOAT.