MARC ILES' WORLD CUP SIDESHOW: Holland victory will show Van's the man
WHETHER you like him or not, you have to take your hat off to Louis van Gaal so far at this World Cup.
The soon-to-be Manchester United boss has made some decisions in this tournament which, when taken at face value, looked to be plain ridiculous.
Take his antics in the compelling quarter-final tie against Costa Rica for example. Who takes a goalkeeper off two minutes before the end of extra time? A genius, or a fruit loop – that’s who.
Exactly which category Van Gaal fits into I am not quite sure, and the Dutchman’s arrogant approach sets him up for something of a fall on occasions.
But speaking to people who have played under him, ex-Wanderers defender Gretar Steinsson for one, it seems Van Gaal’s eccentric streak is part of what makes him an elite coach.
You can only be lucky so many times before people have to admit you are actually quite good.
And if Van Gaal can lead his side past Argentina this evening, there will be no question at all.
It is no secret that if you stop Lionel Messi, you most likely bring down Argentina, particularly as winger Angel Di Maria also looks unlikely to feature tonight.
It is not a job I would like to undertake. In fact, I would rather be the person who had to pick up all the ticker tape in the 1978 final.
Even though Holland have the ability to win this game just by playing the aesthetic style of football for which they built a reputation, I quite expect the Dutch to get physical.
And you have to say that when you have players like Nigel de Jong at your disposal why wouldn’t you?
But if they try to simply kick Messi out of the game they will just end up looking stupid. He has been dealing comfortably with that for years.
I still do not think Messi has been at his very best in the tournament, despite dragging Argentina through to the last four.
The Barcelona star has only needed to shine in brief spells – but as Take That once sang: “It only takes a minute.”
It might be set up for one of Argentina’s other outstanding front men to take the role of match-winner. I’ve gambled on Gonzalo Higuain in my Fantasy League side, so when he gets sent off five minutes into this evening’s game you might hear a high-pitched squeal coming from the direction of Denmark where I’ll be watching in between covering Wanderers on tour.