“Angry” Van Gaal expects a happy end to the World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) – This year’s World Cup was not intended for Louis van Gaal. In fact, it was a great inconvenience.

He was retired when the Dutch Football Association asked him to coach the national team for the third time last year. He was just days away from turning 70. He was also being treated for aggressive prostate cancer.

He took the job anyway.

“Because there was just no one else available at the time,” Van Gaal said.

Thus began the final assignment for one of football’s most accomplished coaches, a man who has taken on and won trophies with Ajax, Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich and Manchester United and who has now extended his coaching career to the last 30 years by living up to the reputation of his The World Cup in Qatar followed suit.

Van Gaal may have started out of a sense of duty rather than a burning personal ambition to get back into the game. For the Netherlands, who have lost three World Cup finals and lost on penalties in the semi-finals in 2014, the last time Van Gaal was coach, has opened up yet another chance to win the grand prize.

The current team beat Senegal 2-0 in the World Cup opener on Monday, giving Van Gaal his 38th win as Dutch coach, a national record and another indicator of his heritage.

Could this milestone be the start of a fairy tale run through this World Cup for the man they call the Iron Tulip?

Maybe, but if it’s going to be a glorious final chapter for coach Van Gaal, who has announced he will definitely step down after this World Cup, it won’t be a fairy tale. It will be more of a reward for a lot of hard work if Van Gaal’s reputation as one of the toughest disciplinarians and most intense men in football still holds up after five years of retirement and a health condition as serious as cancer.

It does.

Van Gaal smiled, only slightly, as his standing at this World Cup was boosted yet again. It was suggested to him, for example, that he was “angry” for quite a while as Barcelona manager early in his career. It was certainly time to ease off a little.

“I’ve never changed. I’ve never changed as a person,” said Van Gaal. “Maybe I’ve gained some experience. It was concluded that some things could be done differently. But at the end of the day, I’ve never changed throughout my career.”

And he doesn’t expect that now either, even though at 71 he’s the oldest coach at this World Cup. His fierce recent criticism Giving the World Cup to Qatar is proof of that.

His current players have no problem with this character, who captain Virgil van Dijk described as ‘direct’, although Van Gaal is sometimes angry and almost always strict.

“He’s a great person,” said Van Dijk.

Striker Vincent Janssen adds: “He always knows how to motivate us.”

Van Gaal’s own commitment to this World Cup season was clear.

He gave up his retirement – no doubt partly at his holiday home in Portugal’s Algarve region – to lead a new generation of Dutch players when that wasn’t really his aim. He trained from a wheelchair for a while last year after falling off his bike at a training camp and breaking a bone in his hip. He wasn’t going to take any time off.

And then there’s the cancer.

Although he was first diagnosed in 2020, Van Gaal did not immediately tell his players when he was appointed manager in August 2021, as he thought the details of his illness and the grueling treatment he underwent while coaching would be a distraction. He put the team first.

He eventually announced he had cancer and hopefully was on his way to beating it earlier this year.

“When the news came out, it was a shock for us,” said Van Dijk. “It was tough … but we wanted to be there for him. And we will definitely go one step further, also knowing that this is the last World Cup for him.”


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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