Louis Van Gaal, 71, will be the oldest and one of the most experienced coaches at the Qatar World Cup. This will be his second World Cup with the Netherlands. First appointed in 2012, Van Gaal was in charge of the Dutch team in the 2014 World Cup, where he guided his team to a third-placed finish, beating Brazil in the playoff.
A former midfielder in the Eredivisie, Van Gaal played for Sparta Rotterdam. Post-retirement, he pursued physical education degree and took up a teaching job. After a brief spell in education, he became a coach and managed top clubs across Europe: from Ajax in the Netherlands to Barcelona in Spain to Bayern Munich in Germany to Manchester United in England.
After his first stint with the Netherlands, Van Gaal rejoined the Oranje in 2021 to head its coaching panel. He replaced Frank de Boer after the Netherlands’ poor campaign in the Euro.
In Qatar, Van Gaal, who has recently recovered from prostate cancer, will hope to guide the Netherlands to its maiden World Cup glory after the Dutch side failed to qualify for Russia 2018. The Netherlands has been one of the unluckiest teams in tournament history, losing three finals in 1974, 1978 and 2010.
Heading to Qatar, Van Gaal also stands a chance to become the Netherlands’ most successful coach at the World Cup. So far he won 37 matches and, at the moment, is tied with Dick Advocaat. Advocaat took four games more to reach that number.
Van Gaal, a strict disciplinarian, introduced the 5-3-2 system in March, discarding his much-loved 4-3-3 formation. Although it has provoked criticism, it is worth noting that the Netherlands did well when it beat Brazil 3-0 in the third-place playoff four years ago.
He gave preference to better balance over the attack. His team has been vulnerable to injuries, with Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay, who have had muscle problems this season. And it has been his main worry.
The Netherlands is placed in Group A alongside host Qatar, AFCON champion Senegal and Ecuador. Van Gaal’s Netherlands will begin its campaign on November 21 against Senegal.