LOuis van Gaal wants a really big coup at this World Cup and he’s not hiding it. The Elftal coach is aiming to win the Gold Cup and a 3-1 win over the USA made the Netherlands the first country to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament, which was certainly only a small step in that direction. Definitely more than one thing.
So the old master of training did not put on a big show after this success, which colleagues like the German Hansi Flick could only dream of. Van Gaal didn’t do any cheering, he just shook a few hands and praised his team, something the 71-year-old football teacher still wants.
“We struggled a lot in the first half, which is unacceptable at the World Cup,” he fumed about his team’s performance before the break. You can’t buy that kind of performance “against top nations”. Matthias Sammer, the proven expert on all questions of success mindset, would probably say: “That’s what winners are.”
Because the Dutch have to advance after a sovereign, but by no means the best group stage and this round of 16, it’s not a great game of football. At first the Americans were even stronger, and Christian Pulisic had a good chance three minutes later. But the ex-Dortmund man scored for the Netherlands with his shot from an excellent position through the legs of Andries Nobert.
“We talked about how it’s a game of moments, and the first half was a great example of that,” U.S. coach Greg Berhalter said. But after a good opening minute, the Americans’ play faltered and fumbled, with both teams looking weak and tired, but the Dutch were better at moments.
They made three moves on the lawn, which pleased Van Gao despite all odds. “Those are fantastic goals, that’s the beauty,” he said, emphasizing the first goal in particular when the Dutch drew a glorious play on the pitch that a textbook on Dutch dream football couldn’t better deliver.
A mix-up from their own half eventually found its way down the right wing, from where Denzel Dumfries passed the center back to Memphis Depay, who slotted the ball accurately into the goal (10′).
Wright meets by chance
It is precisely this kind of wing play that is at the heart of “total football”, which is still idealized by Dutch aesthetics. When right winger Dumfries left winger Daly Blindin (45 + 1) made it 2-0, luck was almost right, especially since the Americans didn’t have much to counter.
So 3:1 already reflected the course of the game well. Although the Americans scored a goal that was somewhat more fortuitous than accidental (76′) by Haji Wright, Dumfries made it 3-1 after two assists and finally decided the game (81′).
The Americans, who will be one of three hosts at the 2026 tournament, achieved a record 2-1 win in the group stage with five points to advance to the round of 16.
They’re like the minimalists of the group stage, and now it’s clear why: coach Berhalter said his team was missing a man like Memphis Depay, who scored goals in the Champions League. And they don’t have anything like Dumfries.
Dumfries, the hero of the evening, even received a big kiss on the cheek from his coach Van Gaal. The 26-year-old winger already impressed his compatriots in the European Championship a year and a half ago, after moving to Inter Milan from PSV Eindhoven. He should not aim for a club change this time, the Dutchman wants something else: to become world champion.
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