FIFA Men's World Cup
Netherlands has gotten results — but hasn't impressed back home
FIFA Men's World Cup

Netherlands has gotten results — but hasn't impressed back home

Updated Dec. 1, 2022 4:24 p.m. ET

AL RAYYAN, Qatar – On its path to a round of 16 matchup against the United States, the Netherlands suffered few nervous moments, had no major hiccups, conceded just one goal, topped Group A and had every reason to be really quite happy.

Except, no one told head coach Louis van Gaal. Or the Dutch press. Or, indeed, an expectant national back home, for whom their team's seven-point haul from its three games so far was not enough to spread any serious optimism.

Some countries have had enough success in the past that simply making it to the knockout stage is nowhere near enough, and the Netherlands' performances against Senegal, Ecuador and host nation Qatar failed to meet public approval, creating a knock-on effect.

Head-shaking and hand-wringing from supporters on social media fired up the journalists, who quizzed van Gaal about what was deemed to be a poor level of soccer, which in turn infuriated the coach, who has never been one to take criticism with a smile and a "thanks for the feedback."


The USA will meet van Gaal's squad at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday (10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), with a place in the quarterfinal — against either Lionel Messi's Argentina or Australia — at stake. The Americans have not reached the last eight since 2002, while the Dutch lost to Spain in the 2010 final.

"I don't agree with you and I'm not going to expand on that," he told a questioning reporter who likened the recent games to "grinding teeth." "You have a different perspective to me. Why don't you write down that it's terribly boring? If you think it's boring, why don't you go home?

"We will see you then. I don't agree with you. I think everyone would be rather proud we're progressing to the next round and I think people know why you're asking these questions. I don't think things are as bad as you say." 

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The main positive to come from the Dutch campaign has been the goal-scoring form of 6-foot-4 forward Cody Gakpo, who has hit the target in three straight games and continues to be linked with a move from PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United.

The Americans struggled in their opening match when Wales introduced towering striker Kieffer Moore at half-time and was able to resurrect a tie. Tim Ream is assumed to be locked in as starting central defender, with Walker Zimmerman and Cameron Carter-Vickers both in contention for a spot alongside him.

Netherlands' Cody Gakpo scores goal vs. Ecuador in 6'

Gakpo's predatory form means he has escaped flak back home. Most of the rest of the team — and van Gaal himself — have not. That has led to delight in neighboring Belgium, with former PSV player Marc Degryse lighting up van Gaal.

"Where has the Dutch football school gone?" Degryse wrote in Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. "What happened to Orange (the team's nickname and jersey color) as an advertisement for football? What I saw now was pure ‘result' football.

"Louis van Gaal thinks we all still believe in (Santa Claus). He tries to make us believe that the Netherlands can become world champion. Not really, mind you. They are without shine."

[Why Tyler Adams is the perfect captain for the USMNT]

By comparison, the response to the USA's play has been mostly positive, especially since the 1-0 victory over Iran on Tuesday that secured safe passage from Group B. Victory in this game to clinch a quarterfinal spot for the first time since 2002 and the effort of Gregg Berhalter's team would be seen as a huge success.

That 2002 run also marked the last time the USA beat a European team at a World Cup, sinking Portugal in the group stage on that occasion.

Van Gaal, formerly of Manchester United, Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, led his team to an 18-game unbeaten run since taking over, but has come under fire — perhaps unfairly — with this team lacking some of the dynamism of its predecessors. 

"We never said we will become world champion, I said we have a chance to become world champion," van Gaal said. "And the players are convinced of that. If you want to become a world champion, you will have to be capable of beating everyone."

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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