Louis van Gaal has an emotional monument Globalism The Cup takes place as the intrepid Netherlands coach prepares to face the United States in the last 16 on Saturday.
If Van Gaal’s side make it to the final stages of the World Cup in Qatar, it will be one of the most poignant stories of the tournament.
The 71-year-old came out of retirement to coach the Netherlands last year despite his harrowing battle with prostate cancer.
Van Gaal has been out of the game since being sacked by Manchester United in 2016, but the combative coach remains a force of nature, as he proved by leading the Netherlands to the World Cup knockout stages after undergoing successful treatment for his illness.
The Netherlands topped Group A with wins over Senegal and Qatar and a draw with Ecuador.
Now they face the USA at Khalifa International Stadium hoping to get one step closer to winning the World Cup for the first time.
The current crop of oranges may not rank alongside the moderns of Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit who established the Netherlands as purveyors of football in its purest form.
But Van Gaal, in his third spell as Holland coach, ranks the 2022 squad as the most talented of his reigns.
Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk, Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong and PSV Eindhoven’s rookie striker Cody Gakbo give the Netherlands a formidable backbone.
Van Gaal claims the Netherlands can win the World Cup because his team has a “higher average quality” than the group he led to the semi-finals in Brazil in 2014.
This blunt assessment has been dismissed as exaggeration by fans of World Cup favorites such as Brazil, France and England.
However, it was in keeping with Van Gaal’s scorched earth approach to management.
Never shy about expressing his opinions to club bosses, players or the media, Van Gaal was in a bit of a biting mood at the World Cup.
Van Gaal was criticized after the 2-0 win over Qatar for failing to play the expansive style that the Dutch consider their birthright, and he did not back down.
“I’m not going to elaborate on it because I think you have a different opinion of football,” he told a reporter.
“Why don’t you write. You think it’s so boring and you’ll go home tomorrow because you couldn’t care less?”
When another Van Gaal reporter said fans were “grinding their teeth” on social media about the performances, Van Gaal added: “It’s disappointing but I don’t agree with you.
“That’s your opinion but I don’t think your opinion is the right one. I think everyone will be proud because we advance to the next round.
“I think things are not as bad as you say.”
Whatever his wasp tongue, Van Gaal’s record commands respect.
After taking charge at Ajax in 1991, he masterminded a golden era fueled by his development of Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and the de Boer brothers.
Van Gaal won three Dutch trophies, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup with Ajax, to move to Barcelona, where trophies and tantrums followed in equal measure.
The failure to lead the Netherlands to the 2002 World Cup damaged Van Gaal’s reputation before volatile spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
At the 2014 World Cup, Van Gaal’s genius was counterintuitive when he sent Tim Krul before penalties against Costa Rica and watched the reserve goalkeeper save two penalties to seal the team’s place in the semi-finals.
Van Gaal’s two cents at Manchester United have been spoiled by underachievement in star signings.
But, in what may be his last act as a manager, guiding the Netherlands to the last 16 has assured the gritty Van Gaal a place in the World Cup spotlight for at least one more match.
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