The talkative technician against the silent star

Qatar World Cup 2022

The Netherlands and Argentina meet this Friday in the quarterfinals in a match with lives crossed and several pending accounts

pio garcia

When Louis van Gaal returned to Barcelona, ​​in the 2002-03 season, a certain Leo Messi, a short and shy boy, played in the cadet team. Van Gaal had already been coach of the culé team for three seasons (1997-2000), but Joan Gaspart went looking for him to try to straighten out a team that had not lifted a trophy for years. Van Gaal accepted the challenge and returned to Barcelona, ​​although that second stage ended in disaster. He was dismissed at the end of January 2003, when the team was twelfth in the League. In return he left several sentences for the marble: “We have not hit rock bottom,” he replied to a journalist. We could still go last.”

That same year, in the last match of the cadet league, against Espanyol, Leo Messi had a cheekbone broken. Fifteen days later, Barça played the final of the Cup of the category, also against the rival team from the city. The doctors forbade Messi to play, but the Argentine wanted to do it at all costs. They resolved to let him participate only if he put on a mask. Leo jumped onto the pitch with the protection, but took it off after seven minutes. He said that he did not see anything. He threw her onto the bench and before the break, when they changed him so he wouldn’t get hurt, little Leo had already scored two goals. His teammates from La Masia remember him quiet, sitting in a corner of the locker room. He only spoke in the field.

Twenty years later, Louis van Gaal and Leo Messi meet in Doha. The eloquent coach coaches the Netherlands national team. The silent footballer captains the Argentine team. The quarterfinals of the World Cup have provided for today (Lusail, 8:00 p.m.) a match with many crossed stories and several pending accounts. The Netherlands is still hurt by the final they lost against Argentina in 1978, under the bloodthirsty and ubiquitous Videla dictatorship, although four years earlier, in 1974, the famous clockwork orange had endorsed them an incontestable 4-0 victory in the semifinals of the Germany World Cup. Since then, they have met three more times in the World Cup and in the last one, in the semifinals of Brazil 2014, they drew 0-0, although Argentina qualified on penalties.


“In 2014 we had two exceptional goalscorers (Robben and Van Persie), but now we have more virtues as a team,” said Van Gaal, who was already the coach at the time. Van Gaal had been dismissed by Di María saying that he had been his worst coach when they both met at Manchester United. The Dutch coach took it in stride: «What did that say? He is one of the few players who have that opinion. I’m so sorry, I find it sad. Memphis (Depay) also had to deal with that in Manchester and now we kiss on the mouth. Depay, sitting next to him at the press conference, clasped his head in his hands.

Lives that are confused, pending accounts, burning words, drops of humor… The Argentines trust their leader and the team spirit that reigns in the concentration: «Leo looks good, happy, and that is the important thing . We enjoyed ourselves a lot and we all had a good time,” said Alexis MacAllister, a Brighton midfielder who has earned a place in the starting eleven.

The pink cloud in which Argentina lives evaporated a bit yesterday with Scaloni’s anger over internal leaks about Rodrigo de Paul’s injury, whose participation against the Netherlands is in serious doubt. «The training was behind closed doors and I don’t know where this information came from. I don’t know if we play for the Netherlands or for Argentina,” the coach reproached the press and, above all, the alleged informers.

In any case, the very numerous albiceleste fans walk around Doha in a state of almost religious exaltation, not entirely justified by the game that their team has been displaying in Qatar. They trust Messi and that Van Gaal does not know how to stop him. “What I am not going to reveal is our tactic. That would be stupid », settled the technician, who continues to speak as if he were punching. The fierce dialectic of the coach only softened when he judged the referee who has touched them, the Spanish Mateu Lahoz: «Fantastic -he said- he. Spain is one of the countries with the best arbitration level in the world.



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