New Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal spoke candidly after his Netherlands team's elimination from the World Cup, declaring that some of his Dutch stars refused to take the first penalty in their shootout with Argentina.
Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar surprisingly stepped up to take the first spot-kick for his country, and the 29-year-old defender had his effort saved after a weak attempt.
Ian Ladyman of the Mail Online covered Van Gaal's post-match comments, with the veteran manager saying:
You need to score the first one and I asked two players to take the first ball before ending up with Vlaar. I thought he was the best player on the pitch so should have a lot of confidence. It just goes to show it's not easy scoring in a penalty shoot-out.
It's a very humiliating question to be asked who the players were.
It was unfortunate for Vlaar who had a spectacular game at centre-back, largely nullifying the efforts of Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi.
The semi-final match ended 0-0, after 120 minutes of football, following a war of attrition between both teams, with both sides' flair players neutralised in a tactical battle.
Argentina went on to win the game 4-2 on penalties, after failures from Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder, who both had their efforts saved by goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Van Gaal also spoke about Romero post-match, per Ladyman, saying:
"We didn't lose against them, but the penalties are down to luck. I taught Romero how to stop penalties, so that hurts."
TalkSport's Alan Brazil poked fun at LvG after the manager claimed he was responsible for Romero saving twice.
Van Gaal's team will now play Brazil in the third-place play-off on Saturday. It is sure to be a strange match after Brazil's humiliating showing against Germany in the other semi-final match, losing 7-1.
LvG has expressed his doubts about playing such a game at a World Cup, eluding that it is a pointless contest, per Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph.
He also proclaimed that his side's loss on penalties was no different to Brazil's thrashing, while Romero agreed that his former mentor had taught him so much when he worked under him.
The Independent's Sam Wallace and ESPN's Miguel Delaney both tweeted:
The Netherlands had a fantastic run through the tournament, and their finish in the competition's top four is very credible. Upon reflection, it was probably the best they could achieve with a squad that relied heavily upon Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
The team is littered with capable players but not superstars, and this was always going to hurt Van Gaal's efforts as the World Cup progressed.
The Dutch coach now has the chance to finish third, even though he does not approve of the game; a victory in the match will guarantee it has been a successful tournament for the Dutch.
Argentina and Messi were always going to be a huge hurdle to overcome to reach the final and, in the end, the Dutch simply did not have enough in their armoury to see the job through.
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