Louis van Gaal has insisted Holland will not underestimate World Cup surprise package Costa Rica, despite a growing confidence that the Dutch can win the tournament.
Van Gaal said that since Holland demolished Spain 5-1 in the stadium in Salvador where they will face Costa Rica on Saturday, belief had coursed through the squad.
“Our goal has always been to become world champions. We are a team that is very difficult to beat. We are not a fantastic team but we are a team that is very difficult to beat,” he said.
“We should not underestimate Costa Rica. It is going to be a very tough match. They got through with a lot of passion and belief and faith. We should not take them too lightly.” He said his side would begin their quarter-final with “every confidence” that they could progress.
Van Gaal has frequently shuffled his pack before and during matches and will have to do so again to take into account the absence of the midfielder Nigel de Jong.
“Nigel is a very important player and an important element of initial pressure. It’s very difficult to find a replacement because he has characteristics the others don’t have,” he said.
Van Gaal said he would not be afraid to change his tactics and personnel again if things were not going his way.
His changes helped Holland come from behind against Australia, break the deadlock in the final group game against Chile and overhaul a one goal deficit against Mexico.
“We find it easy because it’s in our blood. If we change the length of the balls and are more creative, you can turn around a match. It’s a matter of luck sometimes but it’s also to do with your chances and opportunities,” Van Gaal said.
“We haven’t been so good in ball possession. When the opponent has the ball we are one of the best teams, if not the best. We also have players with individual qualities and skills.”
In a running theme throughout their time in Brazil, Van Gaal paid tribute to the handful of senior players who have helped nurture their younger colleagues and to the spirit among the squad, and in particular his captain Robin van Persie.
“We have always said during the preparation for this World Cup that not the best or most fantastic team is going to win but the best 23 players are going to win.”
He said he planned to keep wearing a bracelet given to him by the head of Dutch team sponsor, the bank ING, that had been made by their children. The bracelets have become a fad among Dutch children.
“I promised to wear it. I will always wear the bracelet in my capacity as coach of the Dutch team. That’s another three matches as you know,” said Van Gaal, who is bound for Manchester United once Holland’s tournament ends.