PORTO ALEGRE Brazil (Reuters) - The Netherlands’ crushing of holders Spain in their opening World Cup match had pundits drooling about the return of Total Football, the Dutch style exemplified by Johan Cruyff that delighted the world in decades past.
But for coach Louis van Gaal, the Oranje have always played it their way.
“There was no euphoria in the team. We have played Total Football. Nothing has changed in that respect. We are applying the Dutch principles,” he said.
Total Football was a fluid system, developed by coach Rinus Michels at Ajax Amsterdam, in which players seamlessly moved into other roles to cover out-of-position colleagues. It brought Ajax huge success at club level in the 1970s and Michels also took it to the national side led by the cerebral Cruyff.
The Netherlands reached the final of the 1974 and 1978 World Cup tournaments although they lost both times, to West Germany and Argentina respectively.
The Netherlands’ brutal play in the 2010 World Cup final, which they lost to Spain, led many pundits to bemoan the loss of artistry and imagination in the Dutch side.
That changed with last week’s victory over Spain - even though, truth be told, the Netherlands retain a hard edge.
Van Gaal also often uses a 5-3-2 formation, in contrast to the 4-3-3 of the classic era.
“It is assumed that to use three forwards is the Ducth tradition but I have a different view on this,” he said.
The spirit of democracy that also characterised Total Football is still evident, with players feeling free to give their opinions to the coach. Both captain Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have been vocal about the formation they would like to see employed.
“I will always listen to the team and their message and I will take this into consideration and see if I agree. That’s they way I always do,” Van Gaal said.
Editing by Nigel Hunt