You have to hand it to van Gaal. There's the Netherlands, a team with close to no chances of making it through the group stages and with closer calls than a George W. Bush reelection campaign.
He went into the Cup heading a team with a defense so shaky it took them five men to get them through the first stage and whose defensive midfield strategy can be best described as a series of contract kills to their designated hitman. Their whole strategy of letting the two boys up front loose while de Jong destroyed every knee and toe from Iniesta to Sánchez all fell apart on the second round when the enforcer himself fell victim of a groin injury vs the Mexicans. Without their destroyer the Netherlands fell victim of its own past, and its own future. A team mixed between boys so inexperienced at this stage, a sentiment only matched by the complacency of the old boys and have beens. They were already out of the count.
And yet they made it through.
With a mix of magic dust (van Persie vs the Spanish), a lot of luck (vs the Australians), patience and careful timing (Fer vs Chile), glorious one last minute comebacks (Sneijder vs the Mexicans), trickery and witchcraft (Robben vs the Mexicans) the Netherlands made it through to the quarterfinals vs Costa Rica.
The Netherlands finally went into a match as the clear an unequivocal favourite and goals were expected. And yet the two teams presented a encounter as exiting as a mining excavation dissertation. For all the threat the boys from the Premiere League may have presented (Campbell and Ruiz), van Gaal was expected to risk something more than three at the back complemented by Kuyt and Blind on the sides. The end result was an encounter of two teams parking ten men at the back between them.
And yet where Costa Rica was hardly ever in a position to score, Sneijder's two posts came way too spaced between them. The Netherlands had the ball, the Netherlands controlled the game, the Netherlands was in a set up which hindered themselves from scoring. The dutch trainer had lost. He had failed to score a single goal vs a Central American team whose qualification as first of their group was already covered on the 'miracle' section of their coach's contract. van Gaal, owner of the most expensive solitary striker on the land and the fastest counter attacking gazelle ever seen downing an orange shirt, failed to produce what just weeks before seemed as easy as flipping a pass forward and quick skipping Casillas.
It wasn't all van Gaal's fault in truth. I mean, I don't think he ever predicted Lens was going to be caught off side more times than an central american foreigner on the wrong side of the border. It was a disaster of semifinal proportions. Failing to win a game that should have been done and dusted even before it started.
And yet van Gaal had the last laugh. Few noticed he failed to use all of his substitutions on a 120 minute game and the few of those who did, wondered exactly why was he so complacent with the state of the match. He wasn't, but this was a different van Gaal. This was not that stubborn reinforcement-wary strategist who said no when Khedira was 'presented on a platter' back in 2009 and whose answer to a Neuer negotiation was a guy who was regularly seen playing in Germany's second division. This wasn't a guy whose answer for every matter pertaining anything from left back to left winger was a dude called Pranjic and who claimed he could do with someone named Hammit Altintop for half-seasons worthy Robben. This was a guy who sent Kroos packing after a single game in the Bundesliga.
No, this was not vintage van Gaal. This was a new version, wearing a tighter belt I bet. van Gaal caught Pinto at his own game. If that was what the Colombian wanted, that is what he was going to let him have. And yet what seemed to be the answer to all Costa Rica's prayers turned against them. van Gaal sent his reserve goal keeper aka penalty master of World Cup proportions into the pitch on to eleven guys who had been sweating it for what must have felt like an eternity. How's that for psychological blows?
Did anyone noticed Krul, a bit less than perfect ball catching skills aside, managed to jump to the correct side every single time? With every penalty van Gaal converted the coin toss chaos called penalty shootout into an art form: The art of giving your enemy want they want, and then making them feel the pain for it.
Last edited by tflags
on Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Kimmich - Thiago - Kimmich
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Kimmich -- Hummels -- Boa --Kimmich
Kimmich with Gloves