Coaching wizardry strengthens Holland’s World Cup case

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Manchester United fans must be watching this World Cup with ever-growing glee as they get an increasingly impressive glimpse of the kind of manager they’ll be welcoming to Old Trafford this season.

Having steered what was perceived an inexperienced squad, especially defensively, to the semi-finals in Brazil, Louis van Gaal has put all of his coaching talents on display.

His expertly planned tactics, a willingness to tinker with plans during a match and some superb outside-the-box thinking have all helped the new Red Devils boss progress to the penultimate round of the tournament.

The latest masterstroke – following the use of a waterbreak to deliver a team talk against Mexico in the round of 16 – was to bring on substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul at the end of extra-time, with the penalty shootout in mind.

Using the Newcastle stopper in the event of a spot-kick decider, believing Krul’s longer reach compared to Jasper Cillessen would be advantageous, was a pre-planned strategy according to Van Gaal and his latest in ream of managerial master classes.

With such a dynamic coach at the helm, the 7/2 about Holland winning the World Cup looks an incredibly tempting price considering the fortunes of the other three teams remaining in the tournament have shifted dramatically.

Brazil will continue without their poster-boy Neymar after the Barcelona man was ruled out through injury, while Germany’s form has been on the slide since their opening group game and Argentina rely heavily on Lionel Messi.

It seems Holland are the only team remaining who are on their way up as the tournament approaches it’s climax, which makes their standing as the outsiders to lift the trophy slightly puzzling.

But with a manager whose luck seems to well and truly in, there’s certainly plenty to suggest that the Dutch can go all the way in Brazil.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.