Former Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal has claimed that the Argentine men’s national team was helped on its way to winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The now-iconic tournament finished with Lionel Messi leading Argentina to a much-awaited third World Cup title, but Van Gaal believes the Albiceleste didn’t beat his Netherlands team fair and square.
Van Gaal, 72, was honored at a Dutch League awards ceremony for a career in football spanning more than 30 years. It was his first public appearance since undergoing a surgical procedure for cancer; Van Gaal was diagnosed in 2020. However, neither the illness nor the operation appear to have affected his ability to generate controversy.
“I don’t really want to say much about [the World Cup],” he told the Dutch news outlet NOS. “When you see how Argentina scored its goals and how we scored ours, and how some Argentine players overstepped the mark and were not punished, then I think it was a premeditated game.”
Argentina defeated the Netherlands in the quarterfinals 4-3 on penalties.
Van Gaal’s comments have reignited a feud between the two national teams that dates back to the World Cup, when the Dutch coach criticized Messi and other Argentine players from La Seleccion. This led to a very tense match in which Messi taunted the Dutch bench with a “Topo Gigio” pose — a nod to one of van Gaal’s former players, the Argentine midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme. Messi was also critical of van Gaal after the game and got into a verbal altercation with Wout Weghorst, famously telling the Dutch striker “andá para allá, bobo” (“get out of here, foo”l).
To his credit, van Gaal also admitted that the Argentine captain deserved to win the tournament.
“I mean everything I say. Should Messi have become world champion? I think so, yes,” he said.
Dutch players disagree
While Van Gaal feels his team was cheated, his players disagree.
Dutch goalkeeper Mark Flekken, 30, was the first to dispute the manager’s remarks.
“We talked about Van Gaal’s comments regarding Messi this morning,” Flekken said. “If that’s his opinion, then he is allowed to share it. But personally I don’t agree with his opinion.”
Netherlands captain Virgil Van Dijk, a key member of the squad in Qatar, who failed to convert one of the penalty kicks against Argentina, also took exception with van Gaal’s comments.
“I heard it this morning, indeed,” he said. “It is, of course, his opinion. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion. I do not share the same opinion.”