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

Nobody Does It Better Than Aguero...

Post comment

When surrounded by incompetence, Sergio Aguero does what no other current Premier League player could do - takes three shots and scores three goals against the world's best...

It's Time For Arsenal To Turn To Mr Charisma

23 comments

With Arsene Wenger back on the ropes at the Emirates, it's time for Arsenal to consider genuine alternatives, The perfect candidate will be at the Emirates on Wednesday night...

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

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

I

sn'tthis strange. Last season we were worried that we were stuck with a Dinosaur in Moyes while Liverpool and Everton were disappearing into the distance with their young, spritely managerts, playing football from heaven. Progressive managers, they said. Managers who understand the modern game.........

HarryBoulton
Rodgers: The pressure's on

B

eing consistently and unrelentingly dog turd really takes it out of you. Try shadow boxing. That's what it's like watching Liverpool, punching thin air.

sinbadsdad
Neville: Reds need a rest

G

ood list, some crackers in there. For me, I'd have had Steve McManaman for Liverpool away at Celtic in the UEFA cup in 1997. I was in the ground that night and everyone kept screaming at him to make a pass, but he just kept going and going and going...brilliant, and in the dying minutes too.

uncle-muller
F365's Top Ten Counter-Attacking Goals

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Champions League: Lionel Messi breaks goalscoring record as PSG win

Lionel Messi became the Champions League's all-time record scorer as Barcelona thrashed APOEL Nicosia, while PSG won.

Champions League: Mourinho hails Chelsea team performance after Schalke demolition

Jose Mourinho hailed Chelsea's "complete" performance after their 5-0 demolition of Schalke.

Champions League: Aguero treble stuns Bayern

Sergio Aguero's last-gasp heroics earned Manchester City a thrilling 3-2 win over 10-man Bayern Munich at the Etihad.

Mail Box

Counter-Attacks: Making Me Fall In Love Again

There is a good deal of love for counter-attacking goals, plus some sympathy for Arsene Wenger, heaping the praise on Chunky Pardew too early and why Klopp > Rodgers...

There's Excitement In Toon Again...

We have mails on a young, vibrant Newcastle side along with the usual woe from those in the red of Liverpool and Arsenal. We just love having the Premier League back...

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