Tactical Genius? Luck? Who Cares?

It looked like a gamble to take off Robin van Persie, leave on Wesley Sneijder and introduce Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Whether he's a lucky general or a genius, it's working...

Last Updated: 29/06/14 at 20:46 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Chambers' Poise Impresses Again

6 comments

It was a gritty result for Arsenal on a difficult night in Istanbul. Olivier Giroud struggled, but Calum Chambers again looked assured on a higher stage...

Time To Burst The ITK Bubble

6 comments

As 'ITK' culture becomes an increasingly irritating sideshow, Daniel Storey bemoans a majority that is prepared to accept a constant shower of bulls**t...

All Articles

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 29:  Klaas-Jan

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 29: Klaas-Jan

"Louis van Gaal has been hailed as a tactical genius; he needs to solve a conundrum," said ITV commentator Sam Matterface as the Dutch stared down the barrel of their last 20 minutes in this World Cup having forced Guillermo Ochoa into just one save with his face.

Two minutes later Arjen Robben - playing a caricature of himself with magnificent twisting runs, melodramatic falls and minor hissy fits - tested Ochoa again and two further minutes later captain Robin van Persie, scorer of three goals in this tournament, was replaced by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, whose last international goal came in October 2012. As far as last throws of the dice go, it looked particularly cack-handed.

The real confusion was that Wesley Sneijder remained on the pitch, deep into his fourth ineffective World Cup performance, the victim of a late change in formation that has left him stranded in midfield as wing-backs aimed diagonal balls at Robin van Persie. Against Mexico, Sneijder had looked like a particularly hot and bothered passenger, and yet he remained on the pitch while Van Persie was hooked.

Perhaps Van Gaal knew his stats - that Van Persie had not now scored in six World Cup knock-out matches and that Sneijder was a goal away from a five-in-five record - or perhaps he just had an inkling that if the Dutch pushed Mexico back into their own penalty area, the ball may eventually drop to either Sneijder or Robben.

In the end it dropped to Sneijder from the head of Huntelaar, who had time for only his first seven touches of this World Cup. One touch was that assist for the Netherlands' equaliser and another was the outstanding penalty after Robben took advantage of a ridiculously rash challenge from Rafael Marquez. Whether it was tactical genius or a lucky last resort, Dutch victory was born from the introduction of Huntelaar and faith in Sneijder when couch coaches were screaming for his substitution.

Some will say that Van Gaal should have shown his tactical genius a litle earlier, when Van Persie and Robben looked isolated as the Dutch sat deep, but the heat had clearly tempted him into conservatism. He was afraid to commit men forward and instead seemed content to see his side pass the ball around the defence. Without Nigel de Jong, that deep defence looked vulnerable to the Mexicans' strength of shots from distance; Georginio Wijnaldum and Daley Blind were offering little protection.

Van Gaal was certainly not reluctant to make changes in order to solve a problem partly of his own making, with Dirk Kuyt's positioning indicative of constant re-shuffles that saw him play as a left wing-back, right wing-back and conventional right-back before ending the game further up the pitch.

The final re-shuffle saw the introduction of the player who would score the 25th by a substitute at these finals. Whether that was luck or incredibly good judgement, it takes the Netherlands into the quarter-finals and bodes very well indeed for Manchester United.

Sarah Winterburn

I felt sorry for Dirk in this match. After playing the first half in the blazing heat he must have thought he was in for a bit of a respite, getting to play the second half in the shadowed area of the pitch. Oh no. A switch of flank for you Dirk. A victim of his own versatility.
- ajsr1982

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

G

reat article. Hits the nail on the head. Encapsulates why I don't read tabloid newspapers anymore. The only thing worse is the 'told you so first' headline when they get lucky.

ianonabeach
Time To Burst The ITK Bubble

F

amous. If that can be achieved whilst sitting in your pants and without any degree of hard work, all the better. I have no desire to be famous, but the rest of that line suits me just fine. Great article by the way, well worth the wait.

hunter sanchez
Time To Burst The ITK Bubble

T

here seems to be little focus on the performance of Besiktas. They played very well and stopped Arsenal from playing. Credit has to go to their manager. As much as Arsenal didn't play too well, we kept a clean sheet, but the home side made it very difficult.

Geddy76
Chambers' Poise Impresses Again

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Premier League: Vincent Kompany waiting to see how Liverpool cope with increased demands

Vincent Kompany feels Liverpool will find the Premier League 'a different competition' once the Champions League starts.

Transfer News: Stoke had agreed fees for Nathan Redmond and Oussama Assaidi

Stoke chairman Peter Coates has confirmed the club met the asking prices for Nathan Redmond and Oussama Assaidi.

Transfer News: Valeri Bojinov reportedly due to talk to West Ham about Premier League return

Former Manchester City striker Valeri Bojinov has travelled to England amid reports he will hold talks with West Ham.

Mail Box

Dear Brendan, Please Sign Di Maria

That's the request to Brendan Rodgers in the mailbox, and not just because it would annoy Man United fans. Plus, more thoughts on why Arsenal didn't want Cescy back...

Man United Fans Still Pining For Mourinho

The morning mailbox ponders where United might be now had the club appointed Jose Mourinho last season, while Chelsea fans are getting very excited...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property