SAO PAULO (Reuters) - For Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, Wednesday’s semi-final with Argentina is too close to call and Lady Luck will likely play her part.
The Netherlands, one win away from their second successive World Cup final, take on the South Americans in Sao Paulo in the second semi-final after hosts Brazil meet Germany in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.
“I don’t think there is a favorite,” Van Gaal told reporters on Tuesday at Corinthians arena.
“I think in the semi-finals the countries are the same level. The results have been like that in the quarter-finals and the round of 16.”
The Netherlands had few problems progressing from Group B, thumping champions Spain 5-1, edging Australia 3-2 and beating Chile 2-0.
Since then, however, their passage to the last four has been less serene. They came from a goal down to beat Mexico with a last-ditch penalty from substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and only overcoming Costa Rica 4-3 in a penalty shootout.
“I would say it’s going to be a 50-50 match and we have to be a bit lucky. The coin has to face your way, as we say in Dutch,” added Van Gaal, speaking through a translator.
Asked about the importance of Lionel Messi to Argentina’s chances, Van Gaal said the match was about the opposing team rather than one individual.
But he did concede that the forward, who has been in scintillating form at this World Cup, needed to be stopped.
“If you score so many goals you do have an added value,” the coach said of Messi, who has scored four times in Brazil and is determined to put past failures with the national team behind him.
“At the most important stage he can always pull it off,” Van Gaal added.
“In principle, he’s always found it rather difficult to show that at a national level and he wants to change that in this tournament, and we want to stop him from doing that. So that’s going to be quite a challenge.”
Van Gaal, for whom the semi-final could be his last game in charge of the Netherlands before he moves to Manchester United, declined to comment on how the match might play out.
A reporter asked whether it was likely that Argentina would enjoy most of the possession while the Netherlands would look to hit them on the break.
“I‘m not familiar with the lineup of Argentina,” Van Gaal said..
“There are a number of question marks there as well, and they have used different formations at this World Cup. I can’t tell fortunes, so I’ll have to wait and see how they will play first ... and then I will know how to proceed myself.”
Editing by Ed Osmond