Sunday, December 5, 2021

Relieved Van Gaal feared Netherlands would blow World Cup spot

SoccerNews in World Cup 16 Nov 2021

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Louis van Gaal feared the Netherlands would blow their chance to secure automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

The Netherlands wrapped up top spot in Group G on Tuesday after a cagey 2-0 victory over Norway thanks to late goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay.

Netherlands head coach Van Gaal had suffered a fall from a bike and injured his hip ahead of the game so was forced to watch the match from the stands in a wheelchair.

Van Gaal cut a nervous figure as Danny Blind relayed his instructions via telephone on the touchline in a fixture played without any fans at De Kuip due to growing coronavirus cases.

Despite a tense game, the Netherlands got the job done as their stubborn defence – which has conceded just eight goals in qualifying – stood firm.

The Netherlands are now unbeaten in seven matches since Euro 2020, winning five times.

“The mood was a bit down the day after [the draw with] Montenegro, then I was afraid that it might go completely wrong,” Van Gaal told NOS Journaal.

“But all in all it was a fantastic week despite everything. We got to know each other through lows and highs.

“We scored two goals today, and Jasper Cillessen kept a clean sheet. We dominated and controlled the game for 90 minutes. Norway may have had half a chance.

“I complimented the team at half-time, but also told them to play a little more forward.

“We played provocative pressing in the second half, which gave us a little more space. And of course we have the attackers for that.”

Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk made a team-high four clearances, two tackles and won 88.9 per cent of his duels as Norway failed to register a single shot on target.

The Liverpool defender spoke of his excitement at potentially playing at his first major international tournament, having missed out on the rescheduled Euro 2020 earlier this year through injury.

“We are going to Qatar and it’s well deserved, we almost didn’t give anything away. In my opinion, nothing at all,” said Van Dijk.

“We had to show a reaction after last Saturday and we did. Of course there are many things that could be improved, but the result was the most important.

“I am extremely proud of this team. It can be tricky to play around with the idea that any mistake can be fatal, but we’ve embraced it. 

“We showed real character, it was not easy to switch quickly after the 2-2 in Montenegro, but we did it.

“I was very sorry that the national coach was there from a distance and the fans were not there at all. We’re going to celebrate well inside. I can’t wait for the World Cup.”

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