Amsterdam: The victory over Belgium in the Nations League on Sunday did not best please Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal but he feels his side are well set for the World Cup in November.
The Dutch edged their neighbours 1-0 at the Amsterdam Arena to ensure top spot in their group and a berth in next June’s finals tournament, but their more immediate objective is the global showpiece tournament in Qatar.
“I assume that we will do better in possession at the World Cup,” Van Gaal told a news conference. “We were not very good against Belgium although without possession I thought we did well.” He admitted Belgium had the better of the game.
“That had to do with the form of the day and the quality of the opponent. Belgium is the number two in the world rankings for a reason. And it’s unbelievable that we have beaten them twice.” The Netherlands also won 4-1 in Brussels in June, finishing six points clear at the top of their Nations League group.
Van Gaal now heads to a second World Cup, having taken the Dutch to third place in Brazil eight years ago.
“I think we are going to be a difficult opponent to go up against. We showed that if we are out played we can still be difficult to break down by playing more compact,” he said.
“I have more quality now in defence and midfield. Only then did we have more exclusive quality in the front with Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. But with Van Persie injured some of the time, I had a young boy fill in many times then. His name was Memphis Depay.” Depay, along with his Barcelona team mate Frenkie de Jong, did not play against Belgium after going off injured when the Dutch beat Poland 2-0 away on Thursday but Van Gaal said he was keeping a place for both.
“I expect my players to play at a certain level at their club,” he said, adding he had mostly made up his mind about his 26-man squad for Qatar.
The Dutch are in Group A at the World Cup finals, starting against Senegal on Nov. 21 before playing Ecuador and Qatar.