Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says with both his Dutch side and Argentina evenly matched ahead of tonight’s World Cup semi-final, there is one way to win: stop Lionel Messi.
The fast-footed forward, 27, has won the world player of the year four times though he has never persistently sparkled for Argentina.
In Brazil Messi has been doing his best to change that theme, scoring four goals so far, the reason why the shrewd Van Gaal says the forward is standing between Holland and a second consecutive final.
“Messi has been voted the world’s best player before and you don’t get that for nothing,” said Van Gaal.
“He has always found it hard to show his form at international level. He wants to do it at this tournament and we want to stop him. That will be a challenge.”
The European Cup winning coach has experienced enough to know not to rise to questions about a potential final with neighbours Germany, after Joachim Loew’s side destroyed Brazil 7-1 on Tuesday.
“I don’t think there is a favourite. The countries are at the same level,” was Van Gaal’s uncomplicated answer, before he went on to mention the threat posed by Messi.
Netherlands, seeking a first World Cup triumph, may be without a star man of their own as United forward Robin van Persie has a stomach and intestinal complaint.
“I don’t know [if he will play] but I will decide,” he said.
“Van Persie is our captain so he is very important to us. In principle, my captain always plays, but he has to be fit.”
Main image courtesy of ieraHDTV via YouTube, with thanks.