Netherlands coach, Louis van Gaal, 71 years old and recovering from prostate cancer, will need more than his coaching wiles to get his team much beyond the Group Stage in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup. He may need to call upon his famed “luck.”
The Dutch, perennial cup runners-up, are in a much different yet similar spot to the ones they inhabited in two previous and very different cup cycles. The similarity is with the result obtained in the 1974 and 1978 cups when the Johan Cruyff-led total footballers should have won back-to-back cups, and the in the 2010 and 2014 cups, when a less talented team lost out, but nevertheless could have arguably won another two cups. But that similarity—almost getting their hands on the trophy but falling just short—has morphed into another type of also-ran status, that of almost being good enough to compete for the cup, but not really.
The Netherlands missed out on Russia 2018, and is time around their team, who have not lost a match in over a year, are good enough to get out of their group and perhaps beat their Round of 16 opponent if the cup goes to form. But, given their rut of up-and-down performances (beating Denmark 4-2 then drawing with Poland 2-2, beating Belgium 1-0, and then drawing with Montenegro 2-2) that would be about the level they could expect to reach. Unless, of course, van Gaal can pull another rabbit out of his coaching hat.
With Gini Wijnaldum’s broken leg likely not recovering in time to play in Qatar, and a number of players not quite in their best form of late (Memphis Depay, Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind, Steven Berghuis) van Gaal will have to do some roster shuffling and additional opponent-specific line-ups. But will that be enough and will the short time for team building, a van Gaal priority and specialty, suffice for this team to jell in time to impact their performance in Qatar?
Asked about his team’s chances in Qatar by World Soccer (World Cup 2022 Special Edition) he responded: “I believe we can go far. Not the best players, but the best team becomes world champions. We have to make sure we are the best team when the time comes. And you need a little luck, of course.”
If the cup goes to form Holland will meet the USA in the Round of 16 and Argentina in the Quarterfinals. Van Gaal can probably counter the Berhalter coaching haze, but Messi’s Argentina is, frankly, even with a “little luck” a clog step too far for even van Gaal’s wiles to manage.
Photo: Louis van Gaal, Shutterstock ID 1844164570, by photoyh.
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