Group F: Last chance for North Macedonia and Argentina
16 Jan. 2023
Before the Tuesday matches, Group F's situation looks very straightforward. The Netherlands and Norway have secured their main round spots and will fight for the top position in the group and the points to carry over to the next stage.
The other direct duel involves North Macedonia and Argentina, who have yet to claim their maiden points at the competition. The winner of their match will finish third in the group and therefore progress.
- 18:00 CET: North Macedonia vs Argentina
In fact, even a draw will be enough for Argentina to reach their goal. The only non-European team in the group has a slightly better goal difference, "-21" compared to North Macedonia's "-22", and it can play a key role if the rivals share spoils.
For both sides, the tournament has been a disappointment so far. With the legendary Kiril Lazarov as a head coach, North Macedonia looked ambitious before the start, but big defeats against Norway and the Netherlands brought them down to earth.
"I'm not satisfied with our performance in both matches, although we know that the opponents are better than us. We have changed the whole generation and the style of play, but now we'll do everything we can to beat Argentina," Lazarov said.
The Argentines finished 11th at Egypt 2021, narrowly missing a quarter-final spot, but their performance leaves much to be desired. The South Americans struggle in attack, having scored just 40 goals in two matches combined.
On Sunday, they kept up with Norway for almost the whole first half, but ultimately came up short and lost by as many as 11 goals. However, they managed to stay in third place against North Macedonia, whom they have never faced in a competitive match.
- 20:30 CET: Netherlands vs Norway
In turn, the two European sides have met six times in both competitive and friendly matches, and Norway have won all of them, most recently in the Golden League in 2021 (40:29).
Yet their paths have never crossed at the World Championship, which is hardly surprising given that the Netherlands are playing at this level only for the second time after 1961.
However, the Dutch team have put on a solid performance so far, as the ten-goal wins against North Macedonia and Argentina helped them go through with one group match remaining.
"It is a very good feeling. Hopefully the tournament will last long for us. I am really impressed by our players," Netherlands' coach Staffan Olsson said.
His team is certain to start the main round with two points - but they can add two more if they defeat Norway on Tuesday.
However, the Scandinavians, who have much more experience, are seen as favourites in that clash. As they boast a better goal difference, even a draw will be enough for them to stay on top of the group.
"Norway is a team with 18 world-class players. Anything we can get in this match will be a bonus," Dutch back player Dani Baijens said.