Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal praised his team’s effort on Friday to come back from two goals down and force a penalty shootout in their World Cup quarterfinal match against Argentina, but stressed that elimination was ultimately painful.
The Dutch staged a spectacular comeback with two goals in the last minutes of the match, which ended 2-2 at the end of the 90 minutes and led to extra time, where the score did not move until the final whistle.
However, Van Gaal’s team wasted their first two penalties, saved by Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, and lost 4-3 in the shootout from 12 steps.
“He had asked the players to train the penalties at his club and they did. It was a fantastic achievement to go back from 0-2 to 2-2, but then losing on penalties is tough,” Van Gaal said.
“I can’t blame myself, I think, we prepared everything. My players fought until the end and are dead in the locker room (…) “They gave everything and I’m very proud, we haven’t lost in 20 games,” added the coach about his run in the third stage as Dutch coach after taking over in September last year.
“In the shootout we missed the first two penalties and that put pressure on the rest of the pitchers. It’s still a lottery and luckily for them (Argentina) won,” he added.
The Netherlands did not start the game well, the 71-year-old admitted. “The problem is that we weren’t able to find the free man with the ball. I tried to fix it at half-time and then we changed tactics three times in the second half.”
“We fought incredibly hard to come back from 2-0 down against a powerful Argentina that knows how to defend very well,” he added.
Van Gaal also considered the Netherlands lost the initiative in extra time, but said it was “logical” due to fatigue.