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How van Gaal has Brought Excitement Back to the Netherlands National Team

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De Boer's Demise

Following an underwhelming Euro 2020 campaign, in August 2021, then Netherland’s boss Frank de Boer was relieved of his duties, with his replacement being none other than fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal for a third stint in charge of the national side.

By all accounts, de Boer had a disappointing Euro 2020, as despite taking nine points from their three group games against Austria, Ukraine, and tournament debutantes North Macedonia, the Dutch exited the competition in a surprise fashion following defeat to the Czech Republic.

A red card early in the second half saw Matthijs de Ligt dismissed, before goals from Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick earned the Eastern Europeans a place in the quarter-finals. In a game the Dutch were heavy favourites to win, this caused upset amongst the camp, and ultimately ended de Boer's time at the helm of the Flying Dutchman.

Throughout his 15 games in charge, de Boer opted for safe formations, deploying a defensive 4-3-3 or a 3-4-1-2, only managing to score more than three times once during his reign in a 7-0 drubbing of Gibraltar. Too often, the Dutch looked pragmatic and uninspired, worlds away from the free-flowing attacking style synonymous with the days of Johan Cruyff and co. However, in “re-re-appointing” van Gaal, excitement in the national team is reinvigorated.

2022 World Cup Outright Winners Odds

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The Netherlands to win the 2022 World Cup @ 16/1

Van Gaal’s Record for the Netherlands

Van Gaal first took charge of the Netherlands back in September 2000, managing 14 games and overseeing the qualification process for the 2002 World Cup. Despite just two defeats to Portugal and Ireland, the Dutch finished third behind these two sides in qualifying, seeing them miss out on a World Cup spot which saw van Gaal leave the position for the first time.

In August 2012, van Gaal was re-appointed as Netherlands boss, again tasked with securing World Cup qualification for Brazil 2014. Winning nine games and drawing once, the Dutch were the joint best side in qualification, with real excitement starting to build as their squad housed world-class players such as Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, and Wesley Sneijder to name a few.

Drawn against Spain, Chile, and Australia, the Dutch enjoyed a near-perfect group stage, winning all three games including a famous 5-1 thrashing of Spain which saw van Persie score his infamous diving header. An 88th-minute equaliser and a 94th-minute penalty saw the Netherlands break Mexican hearts and progress to the last eight where surprise package Costa Rica took the Dutch to a penalty shootout.

Moments before the final whistle, van Gaal made one of football’s most memorable substitutions, switching keepers to see Tim Krul stand between the sticks in the shootout. In saving two important penalties, Krul repaid the faith van Gaal had in him, setting up a semi-final with Argentina.

A second goalless draw led to another penalty shootout, however this time, Krul remained on the bench. Tournament number one Jasper Cillessen failed to save a penalty, and combined with misses from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder, the Dutch were reduced to a third-place play-off against hosts Brazil. Goals from van Persie, Daley Blind, and Georginio Wijnaldum secured a third-place finish, however, van Gaal again departed, this time to fill the vacancy at Manchester United.

Euro 2024 Outright Winners Odds

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The Netherlands to win Euro 2024 @ 12/1

What van Gaal Could Bring to the Netherlands?

For a third time, van Gaal has taken charge of the Netherlands, already playing more exciting, expansive, attacking football than seen under his predecessor.

Given it’s his third spell in charge, van Gaal has a clear respect for the Netherlands national team, stating “Dutch football has always been close to his heart” and considering it an honour to be re-appointed as manager.

van Gaal is more charismatic than de Boer and has looked to recapture the exciting attacking football exuded in his previous spells moving forward to the 2022 World Cup. Since being appointed in September 2021, van Gaal is undefeated in eight games, with six wins and two draws securing a place at the upcoming World Cup. Moreover, van Gaal looks to have rediscovered the essence of Dutch football, utilising his attacking talent scoring four or more goals in four of his eight games in the dugout.

Differing from his previous times in charge, van Gaal has opted for an attacking 4-3-3 formation, aiming to take the game to his opposition and using a midfield trio of Frankie de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Davy Klaassen to transition the ball quickly from midfielder to attack.

For any international side, luck plays a part in the team's success, as unlike club football, the inability to sign players reduces a manager's talent pool significantly, however looking at the current squad, van Gaal looks to have taken over at the right time.

With a balanced blend of youth and experience, the squad homes world-class players in de Jong, Virgil van Dijk, and Memphis Depay, whilst simultaneously housing budding talents in Ryan Gravenberch, Steven Bergwijn, and Matthijs de Ligt, who are all household names already in their own right.

Under van Gaal, there's no doubt excitement has returned around the national side, with positive, attacking football appearing to be the mantra moving forward. With preparations well underway for Qatar 2022, whilst the Netherlands won’t be considered amongst the favourites, if they continue in their recent form, they will certainly give anyone a game and will be fierce opponents this winter under van Gaal.