Van Gaal does not regret targeting World Cup glory: ´The players believe´

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Louis van Gaal does not believe he has placed added pressure on his Netherlands squad by targeting World Cup glory, instead suggesting the players are on board with his ambitious aims.

Van Gaal talked up Oranje’s chances right from the start of this tournament and has continued to do so, even if their performances in beating Senegal and drawing with Ecuador have not been entirely convincing.

The Netherlands still have work to do in their third match against Qatar to book a last-16 place, but the coach does not regret being so open with his goals for the finals.

“I hope this is no pressure at all, because I think you always have to identify the goal, the purpose for which you are here,” he said. “Then you can work towards that purpose.

“If you don’t identify that purpose and say the quarter-finals is enough, that is not the right way to do things. The right thing is to say you want to become champions.

“I set out the reasons why we can become champions. I didn’t say we would become champions, but we can. The players believe in that.”

That belief is evident in Frenkie de Jong, appearing alongside Van Gaal on Monday, as he said: “I think we have an excellent squad. We have demonstrated that on more than enough occasions.

“We are 17 matches unbeaten, that is telling. We have four points, and we played two excellent opponents. We’re well positioned despite the fact the last match we didn’t play as well as we could.

“We talked a lot in the squad about what we want to do, what we want to improve. Everyone is full of confidence, so it’s up to us to show you.”

Van Gaal plans to stay up to date with the score from the other game in Group A on Tuesday – the Netherlands will advance even with a defeat if Senegal also lose – but he is not overly concerned whether his side top the pool and secure a supposedly easier draw.

“If you want to become a world champion, you will have to be capable of beating everyone,” he said. “Particularly those countries you don’t suspect will progress very far, they are progressing or making it difficult.”

The Netherlands will also need their key players fit and firing if they are to go all the way.

Van Gaal is “not surprised at all” by Cody Gakpo’s form at the finals, believing he can “evolve even further, much further”, but he knows Memphis Depay can be decisive.

“To become world champion, we need Memphis,” said Van Gaal. “That’s how I see it.”

Depay has not started yet as he works his way back from injury, but the coach added: “We’re going to do anything and everything to progress to the next match. We’re still in the group stage, but in the knockout stage every match is important.”

If Van Gaal is able to guide the Netherlands to glory, could he yet stay on as coach into 2023?

The coach himself pointed out that would be unlikely, given Ronald Koeman has been appointed as his successor, but he added: “If we become world champion, then the football world is a very opportunistic world. You never know.”



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