Louis van Gaal has confirmed his departure as Netherlands coach after the “incredibly painful” World Cup quarter-final exit against Argentina on penalties. “I will not continue as national coach, that was my last game in my third term,” said the 71-year-old, whose contract expires at the end of the year.
“I am incredibly proud. I had a fantastic, wonderful time,” van Gaal said. The exit hurt “because I did everything possible to prevent it.” Van Gaal has urged his players to practise taking penalties at their clubs in future after the spot-kick defeat. “This is the second time we have failed in a penalty shoot-out against Argentina at the World Cup, with the same coach,” the former Bayern coach said, referring to the 2014 semi-final, “but I have learned from that and asked the players to practise. But you simply can’t simulate the situation.”
It was the Netherlands’ sixth defeat in a penalty shoot-out at a major tournament, three at the European Championships and three at World Cups, this compares with only two victories (one in each competition) in shootouts, known as a strafschoppenserie in Dutch.
Captain Virgil van Dijk, who, like Steven Berghuis, failed from the spot, was also crestfallen after the match, saying: “I’m sad, disappointed, it hurts. Now we have to keep practising!”
Van Gaal, however, is confident of the legacy he leaves with the Netherlands side. Speaking to Koning Louis of Voetbal International, the coach explained: “I leave behind an excellent squad. A team that has grown very close together, has an excellent team spirit and is strong football-wise.”
In addition to taking to third place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, van Gaal won the Eredivisie title three times and the Champions League in 1995 with Ajax as well as the La Liga title twice with Barcelona plus the FA Cup with Manchester United and the 2010 double with Bayern Munich.
Perhaps his most unexpected achievement was the Eredivisie title with an unfancied AZ Alkmaar, spending only €5m on transfers but losing only four games all season in 2009 to win just the second-ever title in their history.
Ben McFadyean | GWFN