By Luis Herrera in Fortaleza
Louis Van Gaal admits the Netherlands had an ‘escape’ in their World Cup last 16 victory over Mexico and has strongly refuted suggestions his side are favourites to reach the semi-final.
Holland set up a quarter-final clash against either Greece or Costa Rica with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Mexico in Fortaleza on Sunday thanks a penalty in added time from substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Wesley Sneijder had equalised just two minutes before the end of the 90 minutes after Giovani dos Santos had put the Miguel Herrera’s men ahead early in the second-half.
“It was an escape yes, but in the second half we showed we could create many opportunities,” said Van Gaal.
“It’s always food for thought, we will analyse the next opponents and see what’s best to do. It’s not only to do with our qualities but also those of our opponents.”
Van Gaal was delighted with the Netherlands’ victory but was quick to play down the suggestion that they will be clear favourites to win their quarter-final match in Salvador next Saturday.
“The Dutch media thought we’d never survive the first round so how have we ended up becoming the favourite? I don’t get it.
“The players are very modest, we will carry on, we have an outstanding team spirit which led to this win. Whether it’s Costa Rica or Greece, these are very difficult opponents to beat.”
Holland were dealt a blow when midfielder Nigel De Jong was substituted after just nine minutes with a groin injury against Mexico.
Van Gaal believes it will be “difficult” for De Jong to recover in time for Saturday’s match but confirmed that Robin Van Persie was substituted in the second-half for tactical reasons rather than due to injury concerns.
“De Jong? I don’t know yet, we’ll have to look into that. It will be difficult for the next match,” added the Dutch coach. “But with Van Persie it was a tactical substitution.”