Van Gaal's resignation with criticism: Netherlands tear up the legacy of "King Louis"

After the World Cup, things are no different for the Dutch than during the tournament: a lot revolves around their coach.

Van Gaal's resignation with criticism: Netherlands tear up the legacy of "King Louis"

After the World Cup, things are no different for the Dutch than during the tournament: a lot revolves around their coach. Only this time different than Louis van Gaal imagined.

"King Louis" van Gaal has always been a particularly combative and self-confident person. In what was definitely his last game as national coach of the Netherlands and maybe even the last game of a long and successful coaching career, the 71-year-old apparently messed with the wrong person. Lionel Messi personally approached van Gaal and his assistant Edgar Davids after Argentina's dramatic quarter-final success. And everything that the seven-time world footballer and recent World Cup semi-finalist threw at the former Bayern coach in words and gestures had the tenor: you talk too much.

Argentina v Netherlands was a World Cup quarter-final that grew heated and ugly as Friday night progressed at the Lusail Stadium in front of a crowd of 88,235. Much emerged from the scenes on the lawn: a pack formation in the 89th minute. Or the way both teams sneered and angered at each other during and after the penalty shoot-out that ended Argentina 4-3. Again Argentina, again a penalty drama, like in 2014 in Brazil.

"We've been practicing penalties all year and then you screw it up," said the former Bayern coach, who even encouraged his players to practice penalties at their clubs too. The end hurts particularly "because I did everything possible to prevent it". But the successful career remains unfinished. Actually, as van Gaal had planned, the tournament in Qatar should be the crowning glory. In April he even made his prostate cancer public, which was another motivational boost for his players. "Everyone knows he has something terrible," said goalkeeper Andries Noppert: "Then you want to end it well for him. That makes it extra sour."

Back to the here and now at the Lusail Stadium, however, part of Messi's anger at van Gaal also had to do with his comments well before the game. For example, the assessment: "Of course Messi is their most dangerous and creative player. On the other hand, he doesn't participate much in the game when the opponent is in possession. That's our chance." Argentina's superstar felt "disrespected" by van Gaal's comments, he told reporters after qualifying for the semi-finals.

And that's how the football World Cup ended for the Dutch, as it had been going more and more on the days before: with all the attention on the coach. "At the moment it's the van Gaal show," said former Bonds coach Dick Advocaat half appreciatively, half annoyed, only on the day of the Argentina game. In a not very attractive but very effective way, van Gaal had previously guided a team into the quarter-finals that had significantly less potential than the French, Brazilians or Argentines. The 71-year-old accompanied this with humorous press conferences and dance routines that were very well received on social networks.

Because of his presence and his enormous successes as a Champions League winner with Ajax Amsterdam (1995), German champion with Bayern Munich (2010) or World Cup semi-finalist with the Netherlands (2014), quite a few expected that he would also coach the Argentines . After the well-deserved World Cup elimination, however, van Gaal and his team were more like the sham giants, where Wout Weghorst's late goals to make it 2-2 (83/90 11) distracted from an otherwise very weak and passive performance. And so the heated discussion about "opportunistic combat football" ("NRC") flared up at home - despite the "fantastic resurrection" ("AD").

"With van Gaal, the association and the national players chose the wrong star in their World Cup show," commented the newspaper "De Telegraaf" on Saturday. Oranje's "offensive powerlessness" was very "painful to look at," continued De Telegraaf. "For a country that has historically prided itself on its attractive and attacking football, it was very little." The newspaper NRC analyzed it as "Polder-Catenaccio" rather than the legendary "Voetbal totaal". A well-known spectacle continued as if in an endless loop: the media and old stars criticize the coach for his defensive style of play - and he rejects it eloquently.

In his press conference after the Argentina game, the elimination and the many disputes on the pitch only played a marginal role. Van Gaal, who had caused laughter and relaxation in the past few weeks with his funny and relaxed manner, was more concerned with acknowledging his own third term as national coach. "I've been a coach for 20 matches - and we haven't lost a game in that time. I'm incredibly proud. I had a wonderful time. And it's incredibly painful to be eliminated like this," he said. Since the score was 2-2 after 90 and 120 minutes, he didn't count this quarter-final elimination as a statistical defeat. "What I leave behind is an excellent group. In terms of football and people." However, "without wingers who can overtake a man at the highest level", as many at home would have liked. This is probably one of the reasons why NRC questioned "why van Gaal kept claiming that the Netherlands could become world champions".

It has been clear for months that van Gaal will step down as Oranje coach and be succeeded by former Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether he will end his career completely or whether he will continue with another association or club, as he has been flirting with several times recently. With the world title it will be difficult. At the next tournament in 2026 in the USA, Mexico and Canada, van Gaal will already be 74 years old. And how much this goal means to him, former Gladbacher Luuk de Jong said again after the elimination against Argentina: "Of course he was emotional in the end, because he had the dream of becoming world champion. That was what he tried, to mediate between us."

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