SAO PAULO: Louis Van Gaal is furious that Holland must wind up their outstanding World Cup campaign against Brazil in the dregs of the third-place play-off in Brasilia on Saturday writes KEIR RADNEDGE..
This is the punishment inflicted on his team wearied both physically and mentally by the desperate failure to beat Argentina only on a penalty shootout at the end of their goalless semi-final in Sao Paulo.
Van Gaal has long been a critic of the so-called ‘losers’ final’ which was has been retained by world federation FIFA despite having been scrapped long ago by UEFA from the European Championship.
Holland’s coach said: “This match should never be played. I’ve been saying this for 10 or 15 years. For one thing it’s unfair because we have one day less to recover than our opponents so that’s not fair play.
“But the worst thing, I believe, is the chance that end up losing twice in a row and you go home from a tournament in which you have played so marvellously as a loser just because you have lost the last two matches. This has nothing to do with sport.
“You shouldn’t have players play this match because there is only one prize which counts and that is becoming world champion.”
Van Gaal’s angst stemmed not only from the Brasilia date but a belief that a defeat on penalties is “the most terrible scenario because, at the very least, we were equal to Argentina if not better.”
Reviewing the match, Van Gaal said: “In a championship you have to score one goal more than your opposition – which we didn’t do and we didn’t create very much either. In our other matches we created many chances so that says something not only about Argentina but about the sort of the tactical match we saw.”
Van Gaal joked bitterly that he had taught Argentina keeper Sergio Romero to save penalties during his spell coaching at Alkmaar since “we were the club who brought him to Europe because he was a big talent . . . so that hurts.”
Not only that, but Van Gaal had problems finding anyone to take the first penalty. Robin Van Persie had taken the opener against Costa Rica but, ill and out of sort, he had been substituted.
Van Gaal said: “I asked two players to take the first penalty but then I ended with Ron Vlaar because I felt he was the best player on the pitch and he had a great deal of confidence. It shows that, when push comes to shove, it’s not so easy to score from penalties.”