Doyen of the coaches present in Qatar, Louis van Gaal (71), returned to the head of the Dutch formation after the fiasco of Euro 2020, still pursues his dream: to offer the title in the Netherlands after three failures in the final (1974, 1978 and 2010). To achieve this, the Dutchman will now have to get rid of Argentina and his Messi. A huge challenge for the Iron Tulip. A final mission for this character with an extraordinary destiny.

World Cup 2022, Countries -Bottom: Louis van Gaal's last dance

  • World Cup 2022, Netherlands: Louis van Gaal's last dance

    Netherlands 09/12

     World Cup 2022, Netherlands: Louis van Gaal's last dance

    Argentina

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“I always confidence in myself. I am arrogant, domineering, honest, hardworking, innovative”. Marked with the seal of impulsiveness and pride, this rowdy declaration is the work of Louis van Gaal. A punchline – slipped in the middle of so many others in more than thirty years of coaching – summarizing, in itself, the complex personality, as divisive as it is egocentric, of the Pelican. Sometimes adored, often hated, the Batavian, a native of Amsterdam, embodies, however, the revival of Dutch football. Out of retirement on August 4, 2021 to take over, for a third time after 2000/2001 and 2012/2014, the reins of the Dutch selection, the one who rubbed shoulders with the benches of Ajax, Barcelona, ​​AZ, Bayern and Manchester United have indeed allowed their team to shine (again).

The architect of renewal!

Absent from Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup before being eliminated against the Czech Republic (0-2) in the round of 16 at Euro 2020, the Oranje, qualified for the next Final Four alongside the Croatia, Italy and Spain have not conceded a single defeat since the return of Louis van Gaal. A series of 19 matches without defeat started on September 1, 2021 with a draw (1-1) against Norway and ended last Saturday with a new success (3-1) against the United States, synonymous with qualification for the quarterfinals final of the 2022 World Cup. A new success allowing, moreover, Louis van Gaal to continue his good series since, as underlined by the statistician Opta, the Dutch coach has not lost any of the 11 matches he led in a World Cup (8 wins, 3 draws).

Expelled from Manchester United in 2016, despite the FA Cup, one year from the end of his contract, Louis van Gaal thus confirms his incredible tour de force since his return to the bench of the Dutch selection and gives reason to the leaders of the Federation. “We were looking for a coach with exceptional qualities and for whom coaching the national team was no secret. No one is better than Van Gaal for this,”, justified, as such, the director general of the KNVB (the Dutch Federation), Nico-Jan Hoogma. “If I was the KNVB, I would have chosen myself as well. I'm not doing this for myself but for Dutch football”, outbid, for his part, Van Gaal during his comeback.

Louis van Gaal, an extraordinary personality!

Hard-bitten for some, irascible for others, the strong man of the Dutch selection also fights outside lands. Suffering from prostate cancer since 2020, he had also revealed, not without emotion, but always with a certain detachment, this disease on Dutch television last April: “We don't die of this disease, at least in 90% of cases. It's other underlying diseases that kill you. I had a fairly aggressive form and I had 25 chemotherapies. The players didn't know that. They would see my cheeks blush and think “what a healthy guy”, but that's not the case. You don't say something like that to the people you work with. I've been through so much in my life, sickness and death, I've probably become richer as a person because of all these experiences.”, admitted the former coach of the Blaugranas.

Before leaving his place, at the beginning of 2023, to Ronald Koeman – also a former coach of the Oranje – Van Gaal intends to take advantage of his last dance. Already among the eight best teams on the world stage, the Netherlands will have to offer themselves the scalp of the Albiceleste, worn by Lionel Messi, and announced as one of the favorites for the final title. . Often criticized for his boring game since the start of the competition, the boss of the Batavian selection confirms, despite everything, the benefits of this doctrinaire method where the system goes far beyond the players. A collective mixing youth (Gakpo and Simons), certainty (Van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay) and experience (Blind) where Van Gaal only leaves room for his own moods. “I am a direct, fair and virtuous person. Which can sometimes seem cruel”, confided, in this sense, the one who does not hesitate to do without the services of Matthijs de Ligt.

The 2022 World Cup, consecration of a sublime career?

With a staggering track record – champion with Ajax, Barcelona, ​​Alkmaar or even Bayern Munich – Louis van Gaal thus makes us forget the multiple failures of his predecessors (Hiddink, Blind, Grim, Advocaat, Koeman, Lodeweges, De Boer) and ranks, most certainly, as the third best coach in Dutch history, behind the illustrious Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff. Uncompromising, talk about it with Christophe Dugarry, the Batavian has notably allowed this collective to find a balance. Symbol of this mastery, the two small goals conceded against Ecuador and then against the USA since the start of this World Cup (8 goals scored). Bringing ambition back into his team and into the game, his pragmatism is nonetheless criticized. Benefits sometimes considered tasteless which do not seem, however, to upset the person concerned.

“I feel the affection of people and accept criticism as something that goes with this profession. But there are already top teams that are out of the tournament. And we are still here. We can be world champions. I'm not saying we're going to be, I insist, but we're here and we have three games left. And of course, it makes me happy to see these players play and it is clear that I am very proud of this group., explained, as such, the Dutchman after qualifying against the USA. An ambitious speech does not prevent him, however, from pointing out the flaws observed against the Americans. “At the break, I was very critical. We were leading 2-0, with two fantastic goals. The first is splendid and shows the collective dynamics well. A team goal. But we suffered in the first half and were often deprived of the ball. This is not acceptable at the World Cup. If we play like that against the best teams, it won't work… In the second half, we had incredible ball possession. We delivered a performance without weakness, even if we conceded a goal stupidly .

Attentive to the smallest detail, Louis Van Gaal remains, in any case, in the race to score , a little more, of his imprint the history of this sport. “The team is united around him. We fight and we want to do well for Louis. This is his last tournament and he was a very important figure for the Netherlands,” confided the 27-year-old Citizen, Nathan Aké, taken over by his defense mate, Virgil Van Dijk: < em>“I told him that we will be there for him as a group when he needs it and I hope we can also make this, for him, a World Cup that he will never forget”. Launched to conquer the world title, the Oranje, deprived of the final by these same Argentinians in 2014, will therefore logically have at heart to definitively consecrate one of the most successful coaches of his generation, but also one of the most fanatics of the football planet. “You have to ask yourself why, rather than asserting things. When you say something, you pretend to know as much about football as I do,” Van Gaal also complained. So why not ?

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