Louis van Gaal knows there is still a long way to go, but he believes the Netherlands can win the World Cup in Qatar.
With a 3-1 victory over the United States on Saturday at Khalifa International Stadium, Louis van Gaal’s team advanced into the World Cup quarterfinals, where they will take on either Australia or Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
Memphis Depay and Daley Blind scored for the Netherlands in the opening period, and Denzel Dumfries—who also assisted on the first two goals—sealed the victory after Haji Wright had pulled the USA within one.
Van Gaal’s pragmatic approach has seen him come in for some criticism, but his team are now just two wins away from the final, and three away from lifting the trophy for the first time in their nation’s history.
“I get enough appreciation from the people around me,” Van Gaal said in his post-match press conference when asked if he believed he needed to win the competition to gain respect from some of his critics.
“I know the media don’t always report in a positive way, it’s a given in football, but some top countries didn’t progress, we still have three matches to go.
“We can become world champion. I am not saying that we will, but that we can.”
According to Opta, who do not count penalty shoot-out losses as defeats, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 11 World Cup games in charge of the Netherlands, a competition record.
The Netherlands have progressed from five of their last six round-of-16 matches at the World Cup, including progressing from their last three appearances at this stage, and while he was pleased with the outcome, Van Gaal pointed to the first half as an example of where the Oranje must up their game.
“I was very critical at half-time in my analysis I share with my players as usual,” he explained.
“Despite being in the lead, we suffered so much, we were dispossessed so often, it was not necessary and that’s not acceptable at a World Cup, if you play top countries you cannot make it.
“In the second half they did a much better job but nevertheless we were very pleased, and gives us incredible confidence. We will evaluate the match, then roll up our sleeves and get to work again, I can’t promise any more than that.”
Van Gaal will leave his role at the end of the Netherlands’ campaign in Qatar, and that is serving as extra motivation for the players, according to defender Nathan Ake.
Ake told reporters: “I think you could see the fight we have, the whole team is united, and everyone wants to do well for him.
“He’s such an iconic figure for us and the Netherlands, so for him to do his last tournament, yeah obviously that’s going to cross our mind.”
Goalkeeper Andries Noppert added: “He’s a really special person because he tries to make everyone better, he tries to keep it as one group. This is a special gift for a coach.
“He gives you a really special feeling that you are all together, and for the World Cup and our squad, that’s really important.”