‘Angry’ Van Gaal looking for a joyous World Cup farewell

DOHA, Qatar (AP) – This year’s World Cup Wasn’t part of Louis van Gaal’s plan. It was really a big inconvenience.

He retired last year when the Dutch Football Federation asked him to coach the national team for a third time. He was a few days away from his 70th birthday. He was also being treated for aggressive prostate cancer.

He still hired.

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

And so began the final task for one of football’s most successful managers, a man who won trophies at Ajax, Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich and Manchester United and now extended his coaching career 30 years by answering the call of his country. The world championship held in Qatar.

Van Gaal may have initially made the move more out of a sense of duty than personal ambition to get back into the game. Having lost all three World Cup finals on penalties in Van Gaal’s last time in charge in 2014, the Dutch, who reached the semi-finals, have yet another chance to win the big prize.

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The current team beat Senegal 2-0 in their World Cup opener Monday gave Van Gaal his 38th win as Dutch coach, a national record and another indication of his pedigree.

Could this be the start of a fairytale for the man they call the Iron Tulip at this World Cup?

Maybe, but it’s no fairy tale if it’s going to be a glorious final chapter for coach Van Gaal, who has said he will definitely retire after the World Cup. If Van Gaal’s reputation as the strictest disciplinarian and one of the most forceful of men survives a five-year retirement and a serious bout with cancer, it will be a reward for hard work.

He does.

Van Gaal smiled a little as his reputation rose again this World Cup. He was thought, for example, to have been “angry” during an entire spell as Barcelona coach earlier in his career. Of course, it’s time to loosen up a bit.

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“I never changed. I’ve never changed as a person,” said Van Gaal. “Maybe I’ve gained some experience. I’ve come to the conclusion that some things could have been done differently. But at the end of the day, I’ve never changed during my career.”

Although he is 71 years old and the oldest coach in this World Cup, he is not waiting now. His latest reviews Awarding the World Championship to Qatar is a proof of this.

He has no problem with his current players with what captain Virgil van Dijk called “direct”, but Van Gaal is sometimes angry and almost always harsh.

“He’s a great person,” Van Dijk said.

“He always knows how to motivate us,” added forward Vincent Janssen.

Van Gaal’s commitment to this World Cup is clear.

He gave up retirement – part of which he spent at a holiday home in Portugal’s Algarve region – to lead a new generation of Dutch players when it wasn’t what he really wanted. He spent some time in a wheelchair after falling off his bike during training camp last year and breaking his femur. It is not a vacation.

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And then there is cancer.

Although he was first diagnosed in 2020, Van Gaal did not immediately tell his players when he took over as manager in August 2021, as he believed the details of his illness and his difficult approach during coaching would distract them. He put the team first.

He finally announced his cancer diagnosis and hoped to be on the road to beating it earlier this year.

“When the news came out, it was a shock to us,” Van Dijk said. “It was tough … but we wanted to be there for him. Knowing this is his last World Cup, we’re definitely going to go the extra mile.


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


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