SAO PAULO – Louis van Gaal became the first coach to clinch a place in the round of 16, top his group (which included defending champion Spain, no less) and post a perfect winning record after three games. In the space of just over a week, he has seen the Netherlands evolve from World Cup outsiders into one of the tournament favorites.
And he is angry as hell.
Van Gaal followed the Oranje's 2-0 victory over Chile at Arena de Sao Paulo on Monday with an extraordinary press conference rant, with the highlight being his no-holds-barred verbal attack on the referees, complete with a sarcastic inference that he believes his side is singled out for unfair treatment.
The most successful head coach so far at this World Cup also happens to be its grumpiest.
"I think the referees should also be evaluated and assessed," van Gaal snapped. "The media assess and evaluate players but you should also go for the referees. If they have made a mistake they should be put at a lower level.
"That's what I do with my players. If they don't perform, if they don't play their match very well, next match I will choose a different player. If only FIFA would do the same thing."
"Again, it was against the Netherlands on two occasions and that is striking isn't it?" he added. "I am only looking at the facts. You see, I am sitting on the bench, and I can see it is not a penalty and I can see it is not a yellow card."
The coach was actually delighted with the referee in Monday's match against Chile – Bakary Gassama of Gambia – calling him "excellent." That left you wondering how much more irate he would have been if he felt things had gone against him once more.
No one was quite safe from his ire. By the end of the press conference, the 62-year-old van Gaal, who will take over as boss of Manchester United at the end of the tournament, was practically shouting. And bizarre as it was, it did provide 10 minutes of compulsive entertainment.
A journalist who quizzed van Gaal about his relatively defensive lineup against Chile found himself on the sharp end of a pointed attack.
"Could you perhaps give a definition of attacking football?" van Gaal said glaring down from his seat from the press conference room podium. "That is my question to you. You can answer me now, I am asking you a question now. You have such a clever question. If you are going to ask me questions I am going to ask you questions."
Chile head coach Jorge Sampaoli had earlier criticized the Dutch for being overly defensive and not trying to score in a game they only needed to tie to clinch first place in Group B.
"I am not really interested in what the national coach of Chile says," van Gaal grunted. "I am not going to comment on it."
Van Gaal's face was red and creased with anger, but you never know, maybe he was enjoying this. Powerful is the coach who can unite his players behind the concept that the world is against them, and when your team is beating everyone, you need to find creative ways to do that.
Goals from Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay clinched the points for the Netherlands. Fer had only been on the field for two minutes when he headed home Daryl Janmaat's cross, while Depay deflected an outstanding pass from Arjen Robben into the net in injury time.
It was a job well done for the Dutch, mission accomplished and for the first time in the tournament, they did not concede a goal.
Van Gaal must be delighted with how things are going, but that doesn't mean he will let you see his happiness. He has the demeanor of a guy who is mad at the world, but don't be fooled – everything is running according to plan.
Yes, the Netherlands are coming and the World Cup's Mr. Grumpy is ready to pout his way onwards.
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