The Netherlands departed for the World Cup on Thursday with coach Louis van Gaal seeking to sound a confident note amid growing doubts around his tactics and formation.
The Dutch signed off their preparations at home with an unconvincing 2-0 win over Wales on Wednesday, heralding another groundswell of scepticism.
“Oranje with a headache to Brazil,” said the Algemeen Dagblad on Thursday while De Telegraaf said a massive question mark hung over their heads eight days before the opening group game against Spain.
Van Gaal has continued to experiment with the lineup in a country more passionate than most about the way their national team plays.
He used different tactical systems in the last two warm-ups and all proved inconclusive.
In a laboured 1-0 win over Ghana last weekend, the coach opted for a 5-3-2 formation having claimed it was the only choice open to him for the tournament in Brazil after losing midfield king pin Kevin Strootman to long-term injury.
But it drew much criticism, notably from high-profile former internationals who feel it is a betrayal of the ‘total football’ approach the Dutch introduced to the game in the 1970s.
In Wednesday’s match, Van Gaal tried a 4-4-2 formation and later switched to the 4-3-3 style they used throughout their successful qualifying campaign in which they won all but one of their 10 group matches.
Van Gaal claimed he had expected an indifferent performance because Wales were always going to be defensive, making it tough for his players to penetrate.
He said, as the team prepared to depart for their base in Rio de Janeiro, that he was not too concerned about the lack of sparkling play but rather more that his players gained experience of the new system.
“It is a process. I must ensure that we play a provocative pressing game and against better opponents, like Spain and Chile who will always attack, this system works very well,” he said.
The Dutch meet world champions Spain in a repeat of the 2010 World Cup in Salvador next Friday, followed by Australia in Porto Alegre on June 18 and Chile in Sao Paulo on June 23.
“We again lost the ball too much,” Van Gaal added after Wednesday’s match at a packed Amsterdam Arena.
“There were two reasons for this. Wales sat with 10 men behind the ball and the turf was not good.
“We did not apply enough pressure on the ball. Therefore, it was a boring game but we scored two excellent goals. It will all be better. The players have to get used to the new system,” he added.
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