Netherlands boss Van Gaal bristles at critics after topping group

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Group A - Netherlands v Qatar - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - November 29, 2022 Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal before the match REUTERS/John Sibley

AL KHOR, Qatar, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal locked horns with Dutch journalists after they said the Orange Machine's 2-0 World Cup win over Qatar was too dull, even if it secured them the top spot in Group A.

"We got into the next phase – the most important part of the tournament - with positivity. We did what we needed to do. We are the group winner," Van Gaal told a news conference.

As one reporter after another criticised the Netherlands' performance against a lowly Qatar - playing in their first World Cup only by virtue of being the tournament hosts - the former Manchester United and Barcelona manager hit back.

"Well that’s disappointing, but I don’t agree with you. I think everyone would be rather proud to advance to the next round. I think things are not as bad as you say they are," Van Gaal said.

The Netherlands condemned Qatar to their third and final defeat of the tournament when Cody Gakpo scored his third goal in as many games with a low drive in the first half and Frenkie de Jong tapped in from close range shortly after the break.

Van Gaal said Gakpo, who plays his club football for PSV Eindhoven, had the potential to be a "really great player" and was learning to play in a more central attacking role than his initial preference on the left.

But Van Gaal chose to highlight the role of Memphis Depay and Marten de Roon who he included in his squad for the World Cup even though they were not fully fit at the time of the announcement. Both players started in Tuesday’s win.

"I am so pleased I took that decision because both of them are able to play now," he said.

The Dutch finished the group with seven points and await the outcome of the Group B matches later on Tuesday to discover the identity of their last-16 opponents on Saturday.

Van Gaal said he thought the Netherlands next opponents would be either the United States or Iran.

He said the United States had historically been a difficult, opponent but he was not familiar with Iran.

Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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