• World Cup

Van Persie praises Van Gaal's tactics

ESPN staff
July 1, 2014
Van Persie acknowledges the fans after the Netherlands' dramatic victory over Mexico © Getty Images

Robin van Persie has praised Louis van Gaal for the inspired substitution that propelled the Netherlands into the last eight of the World Cup - even though he was the man who made way.

Van Gaal took the bold decision to remove captain Van Persie when the team trailed Mexico 1-0 and Klaas-Han Huntelaar, his replacement, set up Wesley Sneijder for the equaliser and scored the winner from the penalty sport after Arjen Robben was fould.

And Van Persie, who will link up with Van Gaal again at Manchester United when the 62-year-old's reign as manager begins in earnest, believes his compatriot was tactically superb.

Robben shirked penalty duty

Huntelaar celebrates his late goal © Getty Images
  • Netherlands striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has revealed how Arjen Robben asked him to take the last-gasp penalty which secured their place in the quarter-finals.

    Robben, the Netherlands' usual penalty-taker, was fouled in the box as the Netherlands staged a dramatic comeback against Mexico on Sunday. But rather than stepping up to take the spot kick himself, Robben handed responsibility to substitute Huntelaar.

    "I had missed my last penalty and that always makes the next one difficult," Huntelaar said. "Arjen had the ball and asked 'will you take it?' As I stood there, I thought only that I had missed the previous one."

    Huntelaar however, showed no signs of nerves as he buried the ball in the bottom left-hand corner, sealing the Netherlands' place in the last eight.

    "You dream of things like this as a little boy, fantastic," he said. "It was a pure adrenalin rush. This is the best drug there is."

He told reporters in Brazil: "This trainer wants to win. So he makes substitutions. It's simple. We played three different formations, so it's a big compliment to the players that they picked up on it so quickly."

The Netherlands have won all four of their games in the World Cup, beating holders Spain, then Australia, Chile and Mexico to set up a last-eight tie against Costa Rica.

Van Persie says they have surpassed expectations already and believes they can go on to become the first Netherlands team to win the tournament, not least because of their impressive resilience.

"I am almost getting goosebumps when I say it, but I believe it really is possible to be a world champion," he said. "Every one of us feels that deep down. We still have three games to win this World Cup, but it would really be the ultimate.

"Unbelievable. Incredible. It makes me incredibly proud to be here, at this stage of a World Cup, wearing the captain's armband. Now we have come back three times to win and that says a lot about this squad."

Van Gaal executed his change of game plan against Mexico during a drinks break as both teams battled with searing heat and Van Persie has questioned why they were scheduled to play at the hottest part of the day.

"We knew this match was going to be tough to survive in the heat," he said. "It was one of the toughest of my career but we did it. I find it strange we had to play at 1pm.

"If you play just four hours later, it is much less severe. I do not understand. You need to think along a bit with the players. We just needed to survive and get through no matter what."

Van Persie was brought off with 15 minutes to go as he seemed to struggle in the heat, but Van Gaal was quick to point out that the striker was substituted over concerns about his fitness, not his form.

"Let's not forget, before he joined the team he was recovering from an injury," Van Gaal said. "It's difficult for him to keep up 90 minutes especially in these conditions. So, this trainer wants to win. So he makes substitutions. It's simple."

Van Persie is relishing the prospect of working with Van Gaal when the coach takes over at United and the striker heaped further praise on the manager's methods in Brazil.

"We are a real team. All 23 players are important and also the technical staff," Van Persie said. "The way they have prepared us is at an unprecedented level. Everybody knows exactly what to do, even when things are changed.

"Take the time Memphis Depay came into the team. Nobody shouted from the side that we were playing 4-3-3 but everyone knew what was meant."

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