Louis van Gaal has accepted criticism of the Netherlands after the draw with Ecuador on Friday but has demanded respect for the 17-game unbeaten sequence since he took charge.
If the Netherlands beat Qatar, who are already eliminated, in their final Group A match on Tuesday they are guaranteed to make the last 16, having claimed four points from their first two matches. After convincingly beating Senegal 2-0 in their opener they were flat in the 1-1 draw with Ecuador on Friday, conceding a late equaliser by Enner Valencia.
Van Gaal, when was asked about the scrutiny the latest display received, said: “I agree with the criticism but we are unbeaten for 17 matches and I think if you look at the goal difference too we deserve some respect.”
The Netherlands have conceded only 14 times during that run, which began in August 2021, but Van Gaal brushed off the notion that his previous statement saying that they are at Qatar 2022 to win the World Cup could be counterproductive.
“I hope this is no pressure at all because always you have to identify the goal and if you don’t identify the purposes and say the quarter-finals is enough you won’t become world champions,” the 71-year-old said.
“We never said we will become world champions, I said we have a chance to become world champions and the players are convinced of that. If you want to become a world champion you will have to be capable of beating everyone.”
A noticeably relaxed Van Gaal made a joke when Frenkie de Jong was asked if he was in good health after it had been observed that the playmaker appeared a bit pale when sitting alongside the Dutch coach at the tournament media centre in Doha.
“Thank you for saying Frenkie looks a bit pale because I’ve seen that as well,” Van Gaal said. “The rest of us have been lying at the poolside. Me not so much but my mother lay in her coffin with rosy cheeks when she died, it’s a matter of genes.”
De Jong confirmed he is fine to face Qatar beyond having a sore throat and not being able to sleep well recently. Van Gaal, meanwhile, explained why he has confidence in Andries Noppert, the goalkeeper who made his debut against Ecuador despite having made only 32 Eredivisie appearances across six years.
“He has a personality of which we feel that he wouldn’t be very [overawed] by this World Cup, which is important,” the coach said. “We assessed how he played in the last weeks to the World Cup – he was in good shape and the other argument, the other reason why we picked him, is that he can give the ball short in the build up which is what we want.”
Van Gaal, who recently had treatment for prostate cancer, came out of retirement to lead the Netherlands again and he suggested he may be open to offers beyond the tournament. “If we become world champions then the football world is a very opportunistic world. You never know,” he said.