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Van Gaal not anticipating Netherlands-Argentina classic as World Cup 'starts for real'

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The Netherlands and Argentina have played some classic matches, but Louis van Gaal believes football "has evolved" in a different direction.
FotMob - 2 months ago

Louis van Gaal is not expecting a classic World Cup encounter between the Netherlands and Argentina on Friday due to the way "football has evolved".

The quarter-final at Lusail Stadium will be the sixth finals meeting between the two sides.

Those previous clashes include a dominant Netherlands win in 1974, a controversial 1978 final and Dennis Bergkamp's memorable winner at this stage in 1998.

Most recently, however, Van Gaal's Netherlands and Argentina played out a goalless draw in the semi-finals eight years ago, with La Albiceleste advancing on penalties.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference on Thursday, Van Gaal appeared to suggest a similarly tight affair was likely this time.

Explaining his "new vision", the Oranje coach had "a very attacking DNA" at Ajax in the 1990s but learnt at Barcelona "you can't always pursue that goal".

"It is much more difficult to play as offensively as Ajax used to play," Van Gaal added as he again faced criticism for the Netherlands' style of play. "If you fail to see that, it is very difficult to understand this is the way things go.

"When, in 2014, I started developing the more defensive system, people criticised me. Now, half the world is playing that kind of football. Football has evolved in that direction."

Asked how this latest episode in the Netherlands-Argentina rivalry might compare, the coach said: "I've just provided you with a wonderful answer to your question: football is no longer being played as in 1988 or 1974 or whatever.

"Then it was an open game, which it no longer is. You can have all sorts of opinions about that, but this is simply the way football has evolved.

"It is always possible to have decisive moments that you remember years afterwards, like Bergkamp's goal, so undoubtedly we will continue to remember this forever."

Memphis Depay, appearing alongside Van Gaal, is of a similar view, saying: "The game is going to be decided in moments.

"I believe we can catch a moment and go through. We obviously want to play a good game, but there's also going to be a tactical game, I think."

Van Gaal is unlikely to shift away from that "defensive system" now as the Netherlands prepare for a step up in quality.

"Argentina in my view are a top country with top football players in their squad," Van Gaal said. "The tournament actually is starting tomorrow for real for us.

"Of course, I don't want to downplay the importance of other countries we've been able to beat, but Argentina and possibly Brazil in the next round are quite different from the countries we've played in the groups and in the last 16."

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