Louis van Gaal has demanded people show Holland “some respect” and raised the prospect of taking another club job should he lead the Dutch to World Cup glory in Qatar.
Van Gaal came out of retirement 16 months ago for a third stint as Netherlands coach and it has been widely expected that he will finally bring the curtain down on an illustrious career after the tournament when Ronald Koeman is due to take over as the Oranje’s manager.
But the former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United manager - who has battled through prostate cancer - has left the door open to a dramatic return to club football should he oversee Holland’s first ever World Cup triumph.
“My successor [with Holland] has already been appointed so that [staying on as coach] is not really an issue,” Van Gaal, 71, said. “I only did this to support Dutch football and I thank them for this opportunity.
“I’m doing this because I’m grateful but if we become world champion then the football world is a very opportunistic world so you never know?”
Holland are guaranteed to qualify for the Round of 16 if they beat hosts Qatar, who have already been eliminated, at the Al Bayt Stadium on Tuesday.
But after a 2-0 victory against Senegal in their Group A game, the Netherlands disappointed in a 1-1 draw with Ecuador when they were lucky to escape with a point.
Van Gaal said criticism of the performance was justified but moved to remind people on Monday that the Dutch have not lost in 17 matches since his return as coach, during which time they have scored 44 goals and conceded on just 14 occasions. He also insisted he would be sticking with his 5-3-2 system for now.
“We are unbeaten for 17 matches and I think if you look at the goal difference too we deserve some respect.
“I reflected on this [system] for a year and a half and it may be at some point I adjust it but at this moment in time I see no need to do that.
“Against Ecuador we found bad positions and didn’t pass to the right colour so you can’t reach your wing backs when you do that but we will improve that.
“We are not gloomy. The characteristics of this squad is we will always go the extra mile so in my view this [Ecuador game] was an exception [to how we have been playing].”
There was also an amusing moment in Monday’s press conference when a tanned Louis van Gaal, sat alongside Frenkie de Jong, offered an elaborate response after agreeing with a reporter that the Barcelona midfielder did not look too well.
“Thank you for saying Frenkie looks a bit pale because I’ve seen that as well,” Van Gaal said. “The rest of us have been lying at the poolside. Me not so much but my mother when she died had rosy cheeks - it’s a case of genes.”
Netherlands World Cup 2022 squad
Manchester United's Donny van de Beek and Newcastle United defender Sven Botman were left out of the Netherlands squad for the World Cup.
Midfielder Van de Beek, who hasn't played for his country since March last year, lost out to the uncapped Xavi Simons, who has impressed for PSV this season. Botman is yet to be capped at senior level, but has been in good form for Newcastle.
Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk and Manchester City's Nathan Ake are in the squad alongside Manchester United's Tyrell Malacia. Burnley's Wout Weghorst, who is on loan at Besiktas, made the cut, as does Bayern Munich's Mathijs de Ligt and Barcelona's De Jong.
There are plenty of ex-Premier League players in the squad, with Barcelona's Memphis Depay, former Tottenham forward Steven Bergwijn, one-time Newcastle loanee Luuk de Jong and ex-Middlesbrough midfielder Marten de Roon selected.
PSV starlet Cody Gakpo, who has reportedly drawn interest from a host of top European clubs, is also in the squad.
Goalkeepers: Justin Bijlow, Remko Pasveer, Andries Noppert
Defenders: Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Aké, Daley Blind, Jurriën Timber, Denzel Dumfries, Stefan de Vrij, Mathijs de Ligt, Tyrell Malacia, Jeremie Frimpong
Midfielders: Frenkie de Jong, Steven Berghuis, Davy Klaassen, Teun Koopmeiners, Cody Gakpo, Marten de Roon, Kenneth Taylor, Xavi Simons
Forwards: Memphis Depay, Steven Bergwijn, Vincent Janssen, Luuk de Jong, Noa Lang, Wout Weghorst
Who are the key players?
Liverpool star Van Dijk continues to marshal the defence as team captain. The 31-year-old’s pace, power and aerial dominance make him one of the most formidable centre-backs in the world and the same goes for his partner, 21-year-old De Ligt of Bayern Munich who left Serie A's Juventus for £70 million in August.
The Barcelona pair of De Jong and Depay had both being linked with moves away from Camp Nou all summer long but ended up staying and will be key figures.
De Jong’s passing, dribbling and versatility make him a vital asset while Depay, reunited with Van Gaal after an unhappy spell at Old Trafford together, is indisputably their greatest goalscoring threat.
Who, where and when do Netherlands play?
Netherlands are in Group A, along with hosts Qatar, Ecuador and Senegal.
Group Stage fixtures
What is Netherlands’ World Cup record?
Rivalled only by Croatia for punching well above the weight of their size, Netherlands are a contender for the best national side never to have won a World Cup.
Three times they have finished runners-up, twice during the 1970s (1974 and 1978) during the Rinus Michels/Johan Cruyff-inspired ‘Total Football’ era, and again in 2010 when they lost 1-0 to Spain in one of the filthiest football matches of modern times.
Despite missing out on the 2018 tournament, their recent record is impressive: Van Gaal took them to third place in 2014 before decamping to Manchester United.
A relatively routine run through qualifying will have also bolstered their confidence and with a group that should be fairly easy to negotiate, the Oranje are definitely a team to look out for in Qatar.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | Ecuador | England | France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico | Morocco | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Serbia | South Korea | Spain | Switzerland | Tunisia | Uruguay | USA | Wales
What are the latest odds?
Netherlands are currently a best price of 17/1 to win the World Cup.