• World Cup

Two Dutch players shirked penalty duty

ESPN staff
July 10, 2014
Argentina scrape into fifth final

Louis van Gaal says two of his Netherlands players refused to take the first penalty in their World Cup semi-final shootout defeat to Argentina.

Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar was eventually chosen to step forward first for the Dutch but the centre-back's weak effort was saved by Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero with little trouble.

"I asked two players to take the first ball before ending up with Vlaar," said incoming Manchester United manager Van Gaal.

Romero: I owe Van Gaal

Sergio Romero saves from Ron Vlaar © Getty Images
  • After saving two penalties to dump the Netherlands out of the World Cup, Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero paid tribute to his former manager Louis van Gaal.
  • "I went to the dressing room to congratulate him," Romero said of Van Gaal, who brought to goalkeeper to Europe in 2007 when in charge of AZ Alkmaar.
  • "He helped me a lot when I arrived in Holland in a completely different country. He spoke Spanish and helped me a lot. So just as I'm grateful to Alejandro [Sabella], I'm also grateful to Van Gaal and everything he did for me.
  • "He is a person that teaches a lot to the players how to grow. He helped me grow. I arrived when I was 20 years old and I will be forever grateful to that coach."

"I felt Vlaar was the best player on the pitch and he has a great deal of confidence. It just goes to show that when push comes to shove, it's not easy to score a goal in penalties."

Romero also went on to save Wesley Sneijder's spot-kick as Argentina triumphed 4-2 on penalties to reach their first World Cup final in 24 years.

Ironically, Van Gaal was Romero's first manager in Europe when the goalkeeper joined Dutch club AZ Alkmaar in 2007 and the Argentine came back to haunt him.

"I taught Romero how to stop penalties, so that hurts," Van Gaal said. "We were the club to bring him to Europe. He was a big talent, and someone who has the qualities to do that."

In the quarter-final shootout victory against Costa Rica, Van Gaal's decision to replace starting goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul paid off as the second-choice man guessed the right direction for every penalty and saved two.

But this time, Van Gaal used all three of his substitutes before the 120 minutes were up. Cillessen had never saved a penalty in 16 attempts in his career and that number extended to 20 as Argentina put all four past him.

"If I had the opportunity to substitute Jasper, I would've done it, but I had already used three substitutes, so I couldn't do that," Van Gaal said after the match.

Louis van Gaal will fly out for Manchester United's pre-season tour of America next week © Getty Images

Right back Daryl Janmaat replaced Bruno Martins at halftime, Jordy Clasie entered for the ineffective Nigel de Jong, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar took over for Robin van Persie in extra-time. Van Gaal said he had little choice but to make all three subs, none of which were for purely tactical reasons.

"I substituted Janmaat for Indi because Martins Indi already had a yellow card," Van Gaal said. "I didn't want to take a risk with De Jong because he would be injured. I substituted Van Persie because he was exhausted."

Van Gaal will still have one more game in charge of the Netherlands before taking over at United - the third-place play-off against Brazil on Saturday.

But with just two days to prepare for the hosts, Van Gaal - who will embark on a whirlwind start to his United career when he flies out for the club's pre-season tour of America on July 18 - admitted he feels the match will be a waste of time.

"This match should never be played, I've been saying this for 10 years," he said. "We will just have to play a good match, but it's also unfair because we have one less day to recover. Chances are, that you lose twice in a row. And in a tournament in which you've played so marvelously well, you go home a loser.

"You shouldn't have players play a third-fourth-place match, because there's only one award that counts and that is becoming World Cup champion."

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