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Jul 4, 2014

Louis van Gaal: We're not a great team

ESPN FC's Andre Kfouri discusses who the Netherlands may use since De Jong will no longer be available.

Despite being their coach, Louis van Gaal does not think Netherlands are a great team, but believes they can win the World Cup as they are hard to beat.

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Four years on from falling at the final hurdle to Spain in South Africa, the Oranje are preparing for a quarterfinal against surprise package Costa Rica.

It is a match they enter as overwhelming favourites, with Argentina or Belgium lying in wait if they reach the semifinals.

Van Gaal is confident his side will get through Saturday's clash in Salvador, but laughed off suggestions they are feeling under pressure given Costa Rica are seen as having nothing to lose.

"Well, I may have some news for you -- the Dutch media did not expect that we would get this far either,'' he told his prematch news conference. "Everything we are achieving now should be fantastic for the Dutch media, but that is not the issue. The issue is our own objectives, our goal.

"Our goal has always been to become world champions and we have already said we are a team which is very difficult to beat.

"We're not a great team, but a team which is difficult to beat. So far we have shown that and I hope we can continue that up to and including the final.

"That Costa Rica are considered to be a less strong team, that is by the media. That is not our words, we are not saying that.''

Van Gaal's suggestion that Netherlands are "not a great team" will raise some eyebrows, especially as they thrashed reigning champions Spain 5-1 in their Group B opener.

The Oranje return to the scene of that triumph -- the Arena Fonte Nova -- for the Costa Rica tie. Ahead of the match, one reporter suggested that perhaps Van Gaal was guilty of underestimating his own team.

"Well, perhaps, yes, you may be right,'' he said.

"But we have always said since the preparation for this World Cup that it will not be the best or most fantastic team that is going to win, but the best 23 players will win this.

"We all have one goal, we are all supporting each other, complementing each other. That's what the Dutch team is, all 23 players.

"We've been able to achieve outstanding results and this what we see.

"That will remain for the entire tournament, even if we lose. The Dutch team will fight right to the very last minute to become world champions.''

Van Gaal sat alongside injured midfielder Nigel de Jong -- who has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament -- at the prematch news conference, and the coach spoke about the importance of the elder statesman to his young side.

The most important of that group is arguably captain Robin van Persie, who Van Gaal will again work with when he takes the reins at Manchester United after the World Cup.

"We have four or five older players and the influence of these older players is quite substantial because we have a very young group of players,'' he said. "It is pleasant for a coach, for a trainer, to have these players that will do everything it takes, who will also look after these players in the spirit of the trainer.''

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