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Netherlands lay low

Thursday, March 06, 2014

PARIS, AFP - Dutch coach Louis van Gaal believes it could prove tough to achieve the target he set to reach the World Cup semi-finals later this year, he said yesterday.

When he took over as national coach for the second time after Euro 2012, van Gaal, 62, was handed the task of a last four finish in Brazil.

But he said although he had a really talented young side, it could be exposed by more experienced teams in June.

The Dutch — who went out in the group phase of Euro 2012 leading to coach Bert van Marwijk leaving his post — have been drawn in a particularly hard group with holders Spain, highly-thought-of Chile and Australia.

Van Gaal, who made his name as a top level coach with a young Ajax side during the 1990s by guiding them to the 1995 Champions League trophy, pitches his team up against France in a friendly today, the last match before he names his provisional 30-man squad for the finals.

Ahead of the game he was at pains to suggest that the Dutch should not be regarded as serious contenders for the World Cup.

"According to the FIFA rankings, we are eighth or 10th ... it doesn't matter which, but we are not one of the favourites," he said.

"I view Brazil and Argentina and, from Europe, Spain and Germany as the favourites.

"We consider ourselves as outsiders. I arrived as coach (after the Euro) with certain targets: qualify for the finals and then reach the semi-finals.

"We have introduced a lot of fresh young blood into the team and played really nice football and scored a lot of goals in the qualifying group.

"However, the semi-finals will be a really hard goal to achieve."

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