Netherlands manager van Gaal knows best

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal looks on during his side's World Cup Round of 16 game against...

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal looks on during his side's World Cup Round of 16 game against Mexico at Castelao Arena in Fortaleza, Brazil, June 29, 2014. (DOMINIC EBENBICHLER/Reuters)

Kurtis Larson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:53 PM ET

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - After smashing Spain three weeks back, Louis van Gaal made one thing clear: He knows best.

The Dutch bench boss told media in Salvador back then he predicted Spain's centre backs wouldn't be able to contain his "Dutch Triangle," a post-match comment backed up by his 5-1 blasting of the World Cup holders.

Van Gaal's genius came through again when during a mandatory "cooling break" against Mexico, the soon-to-be Manchester United manager altered his system before a come-from-behind second-round win.

He's considered by many to be a tactical genius, out-managing some of the game's brightest minds throughout this competition.

Ahead of a quarterfinal date with Costa Rica Saturday in Salvador, media pleaded with van Gaal to offer analysis of a side many find perplexing.

"If I'm going to tell you that, then Costa Rica's coach will know what I plan to do, how I would like to play and what I'll emphasize," van Gaal said. "This isn't something I'll comment on."

He did, however, use more general terms in describing the Ticos, who managed to move past Greece last round on penalty kicks.

"They play a similar system (to Mexico)," van Gaal said of Costa Rica. "They try to attack in the same way. They try to exert pressure in the same way. The thing is, the quality of the players is different."

That's van Gaal. Always getting in one last dig. The last word.

Not that what he said isn't true. The Central Americans, individually, aren't at the same level as Mexico. Costa Rica simply doesn't have the horses to run with the Dutchmen for 90 minutes.

They'll be down a key player, too, after centre back Oscar Duarte was sent off in Costa Rica's Round of 16 win over Greece.

"Saturday's game is like a final for us, but we don't want to stop there," Costa Rican striker Bryan Ruiz told FIFA. "(The Netherlands) are a great team, but I have to be honest and say that we have a good chance of beating them."

The Ticos have pulled off some shockers -- beating Italy and Uruguay in the group phase -- but to advance to a World Cup semifinal would be one of the great stories in this tournament's history.

That said, van Gaal, in his genius, wouldn't let Costa Rica's heroic effort become the story Friday afternoon.

"I may have some news for you," the Dutch manager said. "The Dutch media didn't expect we'd get this far, either."

And while he's not lacking confidence, van Gaal made sure to stay measured.

During a tournament that has seen an elevated number of upsets, van Gaal did his best to keep things political a day ahead of Saturday night's match.

"There are hardly differences between the teams," van Gaal said. "The eagerness to win is incredible. This has been the best World Cup in the last 30 years. The differences are so tiny."

Who's buying that? Anyone who doesn't have the Dutch winning by at least a couple of goals is lying.

With Duarte out, the Costa Rican defence picked a bad time to become stretched. Left fullback Roy Miller is also unlikely to play due to injury.

Without goalkeeper Keylor Navas coming up big in their second-round win, the Costa Ricans likely already would be home.

In reality, the Dutch Triangle -- Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben -- should run the show. Costa Rica hasn't faced anything close to it when you consider Luis Suarez didn't play in the group phase.

"We are one of the best teams at this tournament, if not the best," van Gaal said. "The atmosphere is fantastic. The preparation is fantastic."

And with that, the Dutch manager's modesty went out the window.

Wouldn't yours if you were following in Sir Alex Ferguson's footsteps?

The final questions of the press conference were about a bracelet van Gaal seems to don every game -- a good luck charm, in a sense.

"I will always wear the bracelet (when I'm coaching the Netherlands)," he finished. "That's another three matches, as you know."

A prediction that will see the Oranje progress all the way to Rio.


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