# newsletter
Cooney on Soccer: The Last Dance of Louis Van Gaal
We look back at how Argentina won the tactical battle over Louis Van Gaal.

Cooney on Soccer banner

This article by Gavin Cooney is available in full exclusively to The42 Members.

To get the full article directly to your inbox, join The42 Membership now at or from the Membership tab in your iOS or Android app

Let’s start with a stat that is the property of The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson. 

The last player to score a winning goal in a competitive game outside of a penalty shootout against a Netherlands side managed by Louis Van Gaal? 

Jason McAteer. 

The statistic still holds, as, for the second time, Argentina knocked a Van Gaal side out of the World Cup on spot kicks. 

“This was my very last match, my third term and in that time I coached 20 matches and didn’t lose any”, Van Gaal told the press after the game. “I think you can Google it, ‘Dutch Team and Louis Van Gaal’ and you’ll see the goal difference too. I am looking back on a fantastic time with a group of players.” 

Thus it is farewell to Louis, a man of magnificent, intemperate conviction whom the football world has only lately learned to love. Not that this includes the Argentina players, whose graceless celebrations extended to Messi cupping his ears in front of Van Gaal and Emiliano Martinez telling him to shut his mouth. 

Martinez should know by now that telling Van Gaal to zip it is like trying to dodge the falling rain. 

Van Gaal’s other critics are, of course, the Dutch press, who have long been unconvinced about his style of play. The first question at last night’s press conference was not ‘Louis, you came so close, can you sum up the game?’ but instead a pretty detailed tactical question asking Van Gaal to agree with the assertion that the game-plan only worked when the Dutch reverted to a back four. 

Marco Van Basten has been a high-profile critic on television while a number of Dutch journalists on the ground in Qatar have been disparaging too, including one who wrote crassly of finding Van Gaal’s phone in a toilet, to which the journalist wrote that Van Gaal is now a frequent visitor because of his advancing years. 

These men who do not hold Van Gaal in high regard have evidently not watched Louis, the fabulous documentary about his life and career currently on Amazon Prime. The movie betrays Van Gaal’s basic decency and humanity along with his incorrigible self-belief, which he admits has gotten him into trouble in the past. “I am good at being right,” says Van Gaal in the documentary, pithily summing himself up. 

Van Gaal explained after the game that he doesn’t have the kinds of wingers he has had in the past – name-checking Finidi George and Marc Overmars from Ajax – whom, he said, can keep the pitch large and wide. His alternative plan to achieve this was to rely on wing-backs in Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind. 

Lionel Scaloni matched him by picking a back three and got it right: that a rookie coach could win this battle over Van Gaal is to his enormous credit….

 Don’t miss out on the rest of this exclusive article – The42 Members get this and all of our exclusive pieces delivered directly to their inbox. Join now at or from the Membership tab in your iOS or Android app.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment

    Leave a commentcancel