Louis van Gaal’s years of managerial experience and prestige could help guide the Netherlands past Argentina and into a second consecutive World Cup final.
The Dutchman, whose match against Alejandro Sabella’s side could be his last in the job before he takes the reins at Manchester United, has overseen an impressive World Cup campaign in Brazil with the Oranje currently undefeated and having claimed major scalps with triumphs over holders Spain and South American outfit Chile.
Van Gaal encouraged attacking football
Where his Old Trafford predecessor David Moyes failed he has already succeeded – by playing attacking, enterprising football and coaxing the best from star striker Robin Van Persie.
The former Arsenal man has found the net three times, including a brace against the Spanish in the shock 5-1 victory on June 13, to ensure he make his mark on the finals.
Arjen Robben has been similarly effective, constantly threatening regardless of the opposition and producing performances of sufficient quality to quash any controversy over perceived diving.
Wesley Sneijder has rolled back the years with vintage displays, and kept Van Gaal’s side in the tournament with the equalising goal in the 88th minute during the Netherlands 2-1 victory over Mexico.
The disruption and rifts so often present within the Dutch camp in past finals are non-existent this time around, with the manager instead advocating harmony and peace as they look to end their wait for a first World Cup triumph.
His decision to bring on Newcastle United goalkeeper Tim Krul for Jasper Cillessen for the penalty shoot-out triumph over Costa Rica could have threatened that, but instead the latter accepted it and was one of the biggest revellers in a historic night for the men in orange.
Van Gaal could have made history for all the wrong reasons had they not progressed, but his courageous act will instead now become a part of World Cup folklore and his reputation shall be bolstered rather than belittled.
Van Gaal a better coach than Sabella
Argentina will be no pushover – especially with Barcelona star Lionel Messi in the form of his life – but Van Gaal’s talents are far greater than those of Sabella.
His biggest priority will be stopping the likes of Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and the now fit again Sergio Aguero, but the 62-year-old is expected to fight fire with fire and attempt to blitz the South American side out of the water.
Robben, Van Persie and Memphis Depay are all capable of shining on the grandest stage and moving them to within just one victory of atoning for the failures of four years ago.
The Netherlands are the underdogs, but Van Gaal could still yet head to Old Trafford as a World Cup winner. He owes it to his ego and own self belief that he does.
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