Football

Netherlands plight highlights specialness of Louis van Gaal

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The Netherlands' achievement of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in Brazil last summer already seems like decades ago. For though Louis van Gaal managed to steer them to the brink of glory, his successors Guus Hiddink and Danny Blind are finding things more difficult. 

A 1-0 defeat to Iceland now makes the prospect of watching next summers European Championships in Paris on the television look a reality. Unless Blind can coax the best from his players immediately a chastening experience for all will follow. 

The current situation evokes memories of Van Gaal's own failure back in 2002, where his side missed out on the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. The Republic of Ireland, widely disregarded as a pushover, stunned the Oranje to take their place in the tournament via the play-offs. 

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Ageing squad

What Van Gaal managed to do with an aging, waning squad last summer is an achievement the Dutchman should pin to the top of his CV over his Champions League victory with Ajax in 1995. 

Though they possessed the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, the Dutch were never expected to pose a threat four years on from the heartbreak of losing the 2010 World Cup final to Spain. 

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Their hopes of success looked further dented when the Spaniards went 1-0 up in their group stage clash in Brazil, but a stunning five-goal showing highlighted their undoubted quality and Van Gaal's ability to get his players to go the extra mile for him. 

A painful defeat to Argentina in the semi-finals scuppered their chances of making amends for the agony of South Africa, yet nobody could doubt Holland's class in a tournament where they often became the headline act. 

Hiddink hoodoo 

Hiddink and Van Gaal have never been firm friends and the country's decision to part company with the former would no doubt of pleased the Manchester United. 

For it will appeal to his ego that he, and he alone, has managed success on the international stage. Even if there was no trophy to accompany it nobody would label Holland's performances last summer as a failure. 

Blind has opted to take the job but will now know the full extent of the challenge he has on his hands. Only by getting them to France will he be able to emerge from the shadow, the big shadow, of Van Gaal. 

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Topics:
Football
Louis van Gaal
Internationals
Manchester United

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