Netherlands, battling flu outbreak ahead of US game, make surprise pivot

Netherlands, battling flu outbreak ahead of US game, make surprise pivot

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Louis van Gaal said his Dutch team had been hit by a “worrying” flu outbreak ahead of their World Cup round of 16 tie against the United States on Saturday (10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

The Dutch coach ditched his typical pre-match routine of holding a full 11v11 practice match two days before kick-off and instead gave his players a day off on Thursday.

“I gave them a day off,” van Gaal told Dutch broadcaster NOS on Friday. “With this group, they communicate that to me. I listen to my players.”

After stating that there were “flu symptoms” in the group, he continued.

“We’re not going to dwell on that,” he said. “But if it circulates in the group, it is worrying.”

[Scouting the Netherlands: Are the Dutch vulnerable against U.S.?]

The disruption, believed to have been due to high air conditioning at the team’s base, should not be underestimated.

Part of the philosophy of Dutch football is to have the starting XI play a match against the reserves two days before the game, with the second strings replicating the opponent’s style of play – much like a scout team in the National Football League.

To deviate from that at this stage of the tournament is striking. Given that there are 26 players in the Dutch squad like all World Cup squads, it has been suggested by Dutch journalists that at least six players have been affected enough not to train.

Had there been 21 fit players, assistant coach Edgar Davids – a former national team superstar – would likely have been drafted in to fill the final coaching spot.

The players’ only comment on this came from midfielders Frenkie de Jong and Marten de Roon earlier in the week. De Jong complained of a sore throat which affected his ability to communicate in the Group A win over Qatar, while de Roon said he had a cold after reporters noticed his tears in his eyes. eyes.

Netherlands-US Overview: How Does the USMNT Fit?

Netherlands-US Overview: How Does the USMNT Fit?

United States head coach Gregg Berhalter says his coaching staff and team administrative support members were ill at the start of their trip to the Middle East, but are doing well now and that the players had not experienced such concerns.

“I’m fine,” captain Tyler Adams said.

As for van Gaal, a veteran manager who has previously managed Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, he also sought to ratchet up the pressure on Saturday’s referee (Brazilian Wilton Sampaio) by emphasizing the arbitration of the tournament and indicating his team. had been unfairly treated so far.

“You have seen the three referees the Netherlands have known,” van Gaal said. “Well, I think we can start a discussion on that as well.

“Football is a physical sport, it’s just a trend in the first three games where I saw that we made more mistakes than the opponent, but I think we had 50-60% possession of the ball.”

The Dutch media, strongly critical of van Gaal and the Netherlands’ performances at this tournament, expressed general concern that the United States might have the advantage as a forward midfielder. the game at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie have been a combined force, while Dutch hopefuls will likely be pinned on the central trio of de Jong, de Roon and Davy Klaassen.

Despite the Netherlands’ pedigree as three-time World Cup finalists, van Gaal was adamant his group would not take the Americans lightly.

“USA have shown they have a great team, I would even say one of the best teams,” he said. “A well-rehearsed team, a very tough game. I’m not going to minimize USA. I think they are an example of what a good team is supposed to be.”

Beating the Netherlands would be the greatest moment in United States history

Beating the Netherlands would be the greatest moment in United States history

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.

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