Despite a valiant comeback against Argentina in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Netherlands were eliminated from the World Cup in a penalty shootout due to their concern with tactics. Dutch’s shoddy tactics anger purists. Veteran coach Louis van Gaal has pricked Dutch sensitivities over the national team’s style of play. It happened by switching the system in preparation for the tournament in Qatar. It ditches the conventional offensive 4-3-3 method in favor of pressing a game and then catching the opponent on the counter.
The 71-year-old thought this was the only way for the Dutch to achieve World Cup triumph, and while it didn’t produce stellar results, it did get them out of their group and into the quarterfinals. On Friday, though, they could not overcome a 2-0 deficit against Argentina at the Lusail Stadium. They hadn’t done much to help in possession and had never managed to pin their opponents back.
Dutch’s shoddy tactics anger purists
Van Gaal had little choice but to forego tact and put two massive center forwards in a “hit and hope” attempt to score. Wout Weghorst responded with two goals spectacularly to bring the score even and send the game into overtime. His second goal was a free kick routine he learned when playing for VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga; the ball was placed along the ground rather than over the defensive wall, and the tall striker swept it home. Van Gaal’s tournament-long slogan of “win at all costs, no matter how ugly” angered many purists in the Netherlands.
Van Gaal, who was never short on arrogance, brushed aside his detractors by insisting he was right. It will be widely felt, though, that he made a mistake and that the young Dutch team failed to capitalize on their talents. If only they had committed to the “Holland way,” they may have presented a more formidable challenge.
There were glimpses of promise in their passing game, but playmaker Frenkie de Jong rarely got them going. The wingbacks were only truly effective in one game (out of the last 16) against the United States. Cody Gakpo, a striker, dazzled with three goals in the group stage. It is sure to receive transfer offers from some of Europe’s best teams. The Netherlands will have the chance to quickly move past the disappointment of Qatar by hosting the Nations League finals in the middle of the year.