Van Gaal aiming to make Dutch world champions

Published August 18, 2021
LOUIS van Gaal gestures during a news conference as he is presented at the coach of the Dutch national team on Tuesday.—AFP
LOUIS van Gaal gestures during a news conference as he is presented at the coach of the Dutch national team on Tuesday.—AFP

THE HAGUE: Louis van Gaal says his ambition is to become a World Cup winner with the Netherlands after taking over the national team coaching job for a third time, he told a news conference on Tuesday.

The 70-year-old said he had not taken the job to chase his own dreams but to help Dutch football out of a quandary after the resignation of Frank de Boer after the European Championship and the resumption of World Cup qualification next month.

“I’m not doing this for myself but I’m doing it to help Dutch football. I've always done everything to help Dutch football. I’ve a lot to thank them for, the status that I have as a coach is thanks to them,” Van Gaal said.

The Dutch football association said they had approached the veteran coach because they felt they needed experience in the job with little time before next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

“I think if I was the Dutch football association, I’d also have approached me. Who else could have done it?” Van Gaal asked at his first news conference since being appointed.

“It might sound a little melodramatic, but I think experience is now very important because we do not have any time.”

Van Gaal will have one day and a half with his squad before his first match against Norway in Oslo on September 1, followed by Montenegro in Eindhoven on September 4 and Turkey in Amsterdam on September 7.

Van Gaal’s team currently stand second in Group ‘G’, one point behind leader Turkey, and he has already named a 25-man squad for the trio of games with fitness as the top priority.

“We have to achieve immediately and you cannot do that without fit players,” he said.

In his talks so far with players Van Gaal has not dwelled on the disappointing Euro 2020 where the Netherlands were knocked out in the round of 16 by the Czech Republic “I didn’t talk about the past, that’s totally uninteresting. We talked about the future,” he said.

De Boer faced fierce criticism for not playing a system of four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards at the European Championship an attacking formation that is drilled into Dutch players from village youth teams to the fabled Ajax academy.Van Gaal said players he has spoken to so far expressed a preference for that system, but he made no promises he would use it. At the 2014 World Cup he successfully chopped and changed between systems and players, earning a reputation as a master tactician.

“I always listen to my players, yes, but I look at the qualities of an opponent, I look at the qualities of my own squad and I adapt a system to fit,” he said.

After five years since he left Manchester United in 2016, the self-assured Van Gaal did not take long to resume his prickly relationship with the media, taking exception to a question about boycotting the World Cup because of alleged human rights abuses in Qatar.

But on the question of Covid-19 vaccines, he said he felt all players should be vaccinated and, in so doing, put the team’s interests ahead of their own beliefs.

Van Gaal failed to qualify the Netherlands to the 2002 World Cup in his first spell but in Brazil 2014 he took the Dutch to third place.

“In 2000 it was a honour to be appointed coach, in 2012 it was an honour to serve again but now it is even more of an honour,” he said.

The Netherlands reached three World Cup finals in 1974, ‘78 and 2010 and lost them all. They won the 1988 European Championship.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2021

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