Louis Van Gaal's 3 Most Influential World Cup Decisions for the Netherlands
On Wednesday, Louis van Gaal's Netherlands will face Argentina in the semi-final of the World Cup in Brazil.
It's a match most fans and analysts never expected.
Ahead of the tournament, the Netherlands squad was generally considered to be too inexperienced—and perhaps lacking in quality—to get very far.
In no small measure, the Netherlands' success can be attributed to Van Gaal, who seems unable to make a wrong decision.
The Dutchman is constantly steering his team in the right direction, tactically as well as mentally.
Here, we take a look at Van Gaal's three most influential World Cup decisions for the Netherlands.
Switch to 5-3-2 Against Spain
During the Netherlands' qualifying campaign, the Oranje played all their matches in their traditional 4-3-3 setup.
Considering Van Gaal's love for the formation, it was hard to picture the Dutch playing any other way.
However, shortly before the World Cup, Van Gaal shocked friend and foe by suddenly switching to a 5-3-2.
With only a handful of preparatory friendlies to try it out, was this whole new style of play going to work?
Well, it did, as became apparent during the Netherlands' opening match.
Against Spain, a match most people did not expect the Netherlands to win, the Oranje demolished their opponents by a 5-1 scoreline.
In the third group match, against Chile, 5-3-2 worked again. Beating their opponents 2-0, the Netherlands finished top of their group.
Ahead of the tournament, Van Gaal's decision to switch to 5-3-2 was questioned by many.
As we know now, it was exactly the right call.
Use of Dirk Kuyt
Dirk Kuyt, the former Feyenoord and Liverpool player, might not be a very enticing player to look at. However, as Van Gaal has demonstrated, he can certainly be very useful.
At this World Cup, Kuyt was first used in the match against Chile. He played as a left wing-back.
Later, he would also play as a right-back and as a striker.
Kuyt is not the most talented player at Van Gaal's disposal in any of these positions, but he is one of the most hard working and trustworthy.
Furthermore, the inclusion of the versatile Kuyt allows Van Gaal to tinker his tactics and switch things around during a match.
Are there any other players prepared to play in service of the team—and not just themselves—to the extent of Kuyt?
The Tim Krul Substitution
When the Netherlands' quarter-final match against Costa Rica had gone to extra time, many people wondered why Van Gaal did not immediately use his final substitutions.
The Oranje were in dire need of a goal—wouldn't it be a good idea to bring on another attacker like Klaas-Jan Huntelaar?
Later, it became apparent that Van Gaal had expected the match to go to a penalty shootout, and that he had a bold move prepared.
Seconds before the final whistle, the manager subbed off first-choice goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for reserve keeper Tim Krul.
The Costa Ricans, along with everyone watching, seemed shocked.
While the Dutch converted every one of their spot-kicks, Costa Rica missed two.
It's not that Krul is a notorious penalty killer. It's more likely that the substitution had a great psychological effect on the Oranje's opponents.
For that reason, Van Gaal deserves praise for his audacious move.