Charles Barkley was one of many Americans projecting boisterous, mildly irrational optimism for the U.S. men's national team ahead of a World Cup showdown with the Netherlands, but he might be the only one who captured the attention of the Dutch.
The NBA Hall of Famer and TNT basketball analyst made waves on Tuesday when he declared the U.S. would defeat the Netherlands in the Round of 16 after the Americans topped Iran to make it out of group of play. He was not subtle about it:
"We going through the Netherlands. We opening up a can of whoop-ass. I GUARANTEE the Netherlands in trouble. Hey Tyler, my man 12, we going on. Hey, I want Spain, I want Brazil, I want Germany, I want France — oh they got that boy [Kylian] Mbappe over there, he ain't no joke. But we going to beat the Netherlands."
The Dutch didn't seem to appreciate that.
Well, actually, they did appreciate it for what it was: prime sizzle reel material. They made full use of it entering their match on Saturday:
After that, you're probably aware what happened. The USMNT simply looked outclassed against a more talented and experienced Netherlands team, even with the return of Christian Pulisic. Like Kylian Mbappe, Netherlands forward Memphis Depay was no joke, scoring early in an eventual 3-1 win.
After the match, Depay wasn't content with a victory over the USMNT. He needed a win against Barkley too.
Of course, Barkley being wrong isn't too rare, especially when he is confidently wrong. Depay is just participating in a tradition very familiar to NBA players, but that is part of the spoils when you end an American World Cup run.
The Netherlands will now enter the quarterfinals as a likely underdog against Argentina. Don't be surprised if you see Barkley wearing a Messi jersey before that matchup.