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Van Gaal hits out at Dutch critics before USA World Cup clash

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal hit back on Friday at the “negative” media coverage of his team at the World Cup as they prepare to face the United States in the last 16.

The 71-year-old is unbeaten in a record 10 World Cup matches as a coach, having also led the Dutch to a third-placed finish in 2014 in Brazil, where they lost to Argentina on penalties in the semi-finals.

But the Dutch press have repeatedly criticised his tactics, saying the current team is too pragmatic and does not play the attacking style for which the Netherlands first became known in the 1970s.

“In 2014 it was exactly the same, it was not different. It was very negative,” Van Gaal told a pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s game.

“But, exact same thing now, same old, so I’m used to it and I think my players are also used to it.

“So we’re going to calmly continue on the path that we’ve embarked on.”

Van Gaal came out of retirement last year to coach the national side for a third time but has hinted he could be open to taking another job after the World Cup, where he has repeatedly said his team are aiming to become world champions.

The Dutch topped Group A with 2-0 victories over Senegal and Qatar and a 1-1 draw against Ecuador.

Roberto Martinez is stepping down as Belgium coach after their shock group-stage exit following a goalless draw against Croatia on Thursday.

Van Gaal would not rule out accepting the Belgium job if offered to him.

“We want to be world champions so we’ve got four matches ahead of us and then we’ll see if there are any offers on the table,” he said.

“If we become world champions there will be offers on the table, but we’re not world champions (yet). If I believe the Dutch media we’ll never be world champions.”

The USA, like the Netherlands, failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but have impressed in Qatar, drawing with Wales and England before beating Iran.

“They have an excellent team, I would say even one of the best teams,” added Van Gaal.

“It’ll be a tough match but it’s nothing we can’t overcome. We also have a good team.

“But I’m not going to downplay the USA. I think they’re an example of what a good team is. There are teams who progressed who are not good teams but who have great individual quality.”

The match at the Khalifa International Stadium kicks off the knockout phase, with extra time and penalties a possibility.

Van Gaal famously brought on reserve goalkeeper Tim Krul for a shootout victory over Costa Rica in 2014, before his side then lost on spot-kicks to Argentina.

“In 2014 we were the best squad on the pitch but lost because of penalties,” he said.

“I learned from those lessons. In order to increase those chances, we need the person who has to take the penalty to have all the confidence needed to shoot the penalty, same goes for the goalkeeper.”

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