For years there has been the debate over penalty shootouts. Do you send your five best takers? Or do you send those who actively want to take the kicks, but may lack a certain level of ability? Well, according to Holland coach Louis Van Gaal, two of his players refused to take the first penalty in last night's shootout defeat against Argentina.
Instead, centre back Ron Vlaar stepped up to take the first penalty, and ended up missing it to put the Netherlands immediately on the backfoot in the shootout. Ironically, the man who saved the penalty was Sergio Romero, a player who was supposedly taught how to save penalties by Louis Van Gaal during their period together at AZ Alkmaar.
Van Gaal said: "I asked two players to take the first ball before ending up with Vlaar. I thought he was the best player on the pitch so should have confidence".
However, it appeared confidence wasn't enough for Vlaar and Holland ultimately paid the price. With respects to Van Gaal, he may still feel justified in having Vlaar go first, based purely on the fact that nobody else had the belief or confidence to do it. No matter how good a player is at penalties, they can be affected by the big occasion, and may still be liable to miss.
Perhaps the bigger question is why would a top level footballer who has been asked by their manager to take the first penalty in a World Cup Semi Final, be lacking the confidence required for such a task? It is difficult to imagine any one of Robben, Sneijder or Huntelaar refusing to take it, but this may appear to be the case.
Maybe in hindsight, the players asked will now regret their lack of courage at the time of asking, but it is all too late for that. Argentina march on in pursuit of a World Cup on Brazilian soil, something which would rival their win in Argentina in 1978 in terms of importance to the Argentinian people. For Holland, the inquisition can begin, as they look to move on and shape the team around a new manager after the era of the now departing Louis Van Gaal.
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