Relieved Van Gaal feared the Netherlands would blow World Cup spot

By Sports Desk November 16, 2021

Louis van Gaal feared the Netherlands would blow their chance to secure automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

The Oranje wrapped up top spot in Group G on Tuesday after a cagey 2-0 victory over Norway thanks to late goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay.

Head coach Van Gaal had suffered a fall from a bike and injured his hip ahead of the game so was forced to watch the match from the stands in a wheelchair.

He cut a nervous figure as Danny Blind relayed his instructions via telephone on the touchline in a fixture played without any fans at De Kuip.

Despite a tense game the Netherlands got the job done as their stubborn defence – which has conceded just eight goals in qualifying – stood firm.

The Netherlands are now unbeaten in seven matches since the European Championships, winning five times.

"The mood was a bit down the day after [the draw with] Montenegro, then I was afraid that it might go completely wrong," Van Gaal told NOS Journaal.

"But all in all it was a fantastic week despite everything. We got to know each other through lows and highs.

"We scored two goals today, and Jasper Cillessen kept a clean sheet. We dominated and controlled the game for 90 minutes. Norway may have had half a chance.

“I complimented the team at half-time, but also told them to play a little more forward.

"We played provocative pressing in the second half, which gave us a little more space. And of course we have the attackers for that."

Netherlands skipper Virgil van Dijk made a team high four clearances, two tackles and won 88.9 per cent of his duels as Norway failed to register a single shot on target.

The Liverpool defender spoke of his excitement at potentially playing at his first major international tournament, having missed out on the rescheduled. Euro 2020 earlier this year through injury.

"We are going to Qatar and it's well deserved, we almost didn't give anything away. In my opinion, nothing at all," said the Liverpool defender.

"We had to show a reaction after last Saturday and we did. Of course there are many things that could be improved, but the result was the most important.

“I am extremely proud of this team. It can be tricky to play around with the idea that any mistake can be fatal, but we've embraced it. 

"We showed real character, it was not easy to switch quickly after the 2-2 in Montenegro, but we did it.

"I was very sorry that the national coach was there from a distance and the fans were not there at all. We're going to celebrate well inside. I can't wait for the World Cup."

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    Only four players have created more chances over the first two matchdays while only Argentina's Angel Di Maria has made more successful dribbles.

    PREDICTION

    France are understandably overwhelming favourites to make it three wins from three Group D games. Stats Perform's AI model rates them a 62 per cent chance to take the three points with Tunisia's hopes rated at just 14.5 per cent. A draw is given a 23.5 per cent chance.

  • Australia v Denmark: Danes up for a fight to progress from Group D Australia v Denmark: Danes up for a fight to progress from Group D

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    "I know a few [Australia] players. We've seen the first game and we're going to watch a lot of them in the next few days.

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    "We have confidence, everyone has belief. We have that mentality. We will do our best," said the Eintracht Frankfurt attacker, who believes Denmark played at a much higher level against France than in their opening draw with Tunisia.

    "We are really disappointed but we have to look how we can develop, how we can use the situations we created," he added.

    "The second half was better than the first but we had 20 minutes where we controlled the game, we scored the goal and we had big chances."

    Denmark could qualify for the knockout stage at back-to-back World Cup tournaments for a second time, previously doing so in 1998 and 2002.

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    Denmark – Jesper Lindstrom

    Handed a start against France, Lindstrom felt he had done enough to impress Hjulmand, though he rued been unable to score, with Hugo Lloris making a fine save from the forward's strike.

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    Australia have lost eight of their 11 World Cup games against European sides (W1 D2), failing to keep a clean sheet in all of those matches, while they have won just one of their four games versus Denmark, winning a friendly match 1-0 in June 2010.

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