LOuis van Gaal wants the really big coup at this World Cup, he makes no secret of that. The Elftal coach aims to win the Gold Cup and the 3-1 win over the USA, which saw the Netherlands become the first nation to reach the quarter-finals of this tournament, is of course only a small step in that direction. Hardly more than a matter of course.
So the old master of the art of coaching didn’t put on a big show after this success, which colleagues like the German Hansi Flick can only dream of. Van Gaal didn’t do any jubilation, he shook a few hands, didn’t even applaud his team, the 71-year-old football teacher wants more.
“We suffered a lot in the first half, that’s not acceptable at a World Cup,” he said angrily about his team’s game before the break. You can’t afford such a performance “against the top nations.” Matthias Sammer, this proven specialist for all questions of winning mentality would probably say: “That’s what winners sound like.”
Because the Dutch have to improve after a sovereign but by no means brilliant group stage and this round of 16, which wasn’t a particularly good football game. The Americans were even stronger at first, and Christian Pulisic had a good chance after just three minutes. But the former Dortmund player hit Andries Noppert’s leg in the Dutchman’s goal with his shot from the best position.
“We talked about how it’s a game of moments and the first half is a good example of that,” said American coach Gregg Berhalter. But after a good opening minute, the Americans’ flow of play also faltered and faltered, both teams looked weak and tired, but the Dutch were better at moments.
They just conjured up three moves on the lawn that delighted van Gaal despite all the trouble. “Those were fantastic goals, that was beauty,” he said, particularly emphasizing the first goal as the Dutch painted a glorious play on the pitch that a textbook on Dutch dream football could not have presented better.
A combination from their own half eventually reached the right wing, from where Denzel Dumfries passed in the middle to Memphis Depay behind the defence, who put the ball precisely into the goal (10′).
Wright meets rather accidentally
Precisely this type of wing play is at the heart of the “total football” that still represents the ideal for Dutch aesthetes. And when the right winger Dumfries had put on the 2-0 of the left winger Daley Blind (45 + 1), luck was almost perfect, especially since the Americans didn’t have much to counter.
And so the 3:1 was already a result that reflected the course of the game quite well. Although the Americans managed to score a somewhat fortunate goal that Haji Wright scored more by accident than on purpose (76′), Dumfries made it 3-1 after two assists and finally decided the game (81′).
The Americans, who will be one of three hosts at the 2026 tournament, had achieved the feat of earning five points in the group stage with a meager goal difference of 2-1 and advancing to the round of 16.
They were something like the minimalists of the group phase and now it became clear why: His team is missing a guy like Memphis Depay, who also scores goals in the Champions League, said coach Berhalter. And they don’t have one like Dumfries either.
Dumfries, the hero of the evening, even received a big kiss on the cheek from his trainer van Gaal. The 26-year-old winger had already impressed his compatriots at the European Championship a year and a half ago and then switched from PSV Eindhoven to Inter Milan. He shouldn’t aim for a change of club this time, the Dutch want something else: to become world champions.