Dutch stars reluctant to step up

Louis van Gaal, pictured, coached Sergio Romero in Holland

Louis van Gaal, pictured, coached Sergio Romero in Holland

First published in National Sport News © by

Holland coach Louis van Gaal struggled to find a player to take the first penalty in their World Cup semi-final shoot-out defeat to Argentina.

After a goalless 120 minutes the Dutch took the first spot-kick but, having eventually settled on defender Ron Vlaar after two players passed up the invitation, the Aston Villa captain saw his effort saved.

It was one of two blocks by goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who played under Van Gaal during a spell in Holland with AZ Alkmaar, as the South Americans converted four to their opponents' two.

Holland had got through their quarter-final against Costa Rica on penalties but it did not help them this time around.

"It should give you confidence. We took those penalties in an incredible way against Costa Rica," Van Gaal told a press conference.

"But the issue is you score the first one and 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 a lot of confidence.

"It just goes to show it's not easy scoring in a penalty shoot-out.

"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."

Van Gaal now has to lift his players for their third place play-off - a match he would rather not be involved in.

"I think this match should never be played. I've been saying that for 10 years," he added.

"It's unfair - we have one day less to recover than our opponents, too, so that's not fair play.

"But the worst thing is I believe that, chances are, you lose twice in a row and a tournament where you've played so marvellously well you'll leave as a loser after losing the last two matches.

"In a tournament you shouldn't have players play a match for third or fourth place.

"There's only one award that counts, and that's being world champion."

Romero played down his part in his Argentina's victory. He did not have a shot to save in 90 minutes but made up for that in the shoot-out.

"There is no trick. It's luck. It's reality. One can go in and not go in," the Monaco goalkeeper told reporters after the match.

"These guys do not give away anything."

Romero told fans: "Enjoy this moment, because we are going step by step and tomorrow we prepare for the final."

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