Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal has revealed that two players refused to take the first penalty in the shoot-out with Argentina which saw the Dutch crash out of the World Cup, reports BBC
Van Gaal did not name the identies of the two players who were approached before the Dutch boss turned to Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar. Van Gaal lamented: “I asked two players to take the first ball before ending up with Vlaar. I thought he was the best player on the pitch so should have confidence.”
However, the confidence turned out to be misplaced as Vlaar’s low shot was parried by Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero as the Netherlands got the shoot-out off to the worst possible start.
The Netherlands had arrived in the semi-final via a penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica in the previous round, when they successfully converted all of their kicks. But they were forced to seek a new taker for the first penalty against Argentina after Robin van Persie was substituted before the end of the clash.
Van Gaal had caused controversy in the Costa Rica tie by substituting goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for Tim Krul just before the shoot-out. Krul saved two Costa Rican penalties to assure the Netherlands’ progress, but with all three substitutions already used in the semi-final he was unable to repeat his heroics. Cillessen failed to stop any of Argentina’s spot-kicks, and after Wesley Sneijder also had his shot saved by Romero, the Dutch dreams were over.
Reflecting on the manner of the defeat, van Gaal said: “It’s the most terrible scenario, to lose on penalties. At the very least we were equal with them, if not the better team. It’s a big disappointment.”