Qatar 2022 will be hard to forget for the soccer community, as it saw Lionel Messi win a long-awaited World Cup with Argentina. La Albiceleste’s road to the title was full of memorable moments, including the quarterfinal victory over the Netherlands.
That game will probably go down as one of the most heated matches in tournament history. Not only because of the 14 yellow cards shown by Mateu Lahoz, but also because of the heated exchanges between the teams before and after the game. Dutch manager Louis van Gaal made some comments that didn’t sit well with Messi, who celebrated Argentina’s second goal in front of the Netherlands bench.
“I came up with the ‘Topo Gigio’ [named in honor of a cartoon character, a goal celebration in which a player puts his hands to the ears as a sign of defying someone] right there and I automatically regretted it,” Messi told ESPN. “As soon as I did it I thought: ‘What an idiot. They can still tie it’. These things usually happen.”
How van Gaal made Messi, Argentina angry before the Qatar 2022 quarterfinal
Before the game, van Gaal made some controversial remarks about Argentina, claiming Messi has a passive attitude when his team doesn’t have possession. Besides, the former Oranje coach also said Leo didn’t touch the ball when his country faced La Albiceleste in the 2014 World Cup semifinals.
“The matter against the Netherlands was a little similar to what happened with Lewandowski. It bothers me when people talk off the field and disrespect the opponent. Before the game, I didn’t try to make Van Gaal angry, I didn’t disrespect him, I never did that, and I don’t like them to do that to me. I think Van Gaal did it with intention and their goalkeeper also spoke before the match. I don’t like these things at all. I’ve never been like this. On the field a million things can happen but it has to stay on the field.“
The Dutchman’s comments definitely backfired, as they served as bulletin board material for Messi and company. Angel Di Maria, who already held a grudge at van Gaal from his time at Manchester United, explained they were fired up by his words.
“It all started at the press conference. We were left with a lot of anger and energy inside that ended up being unleashed on the field,” said the Benfica star, who had previously called van Gaal the “worst coach” in his career.
Van Gaal says World Cup was rigged for Messi to win it with Argentina
The animosity between Argentina and the Netherlands went on even after the penalty shootout, with Messi having an infamous argument with Wout Weghorst. He also called out van Gaal in his post-match interview, “Louis van Gaal says that his teams play good soccer, but all he did was put tall people and spam long balls.”
Van Gaal eventually left his post to let Ronald Koeman take over, but he couldn’t let go. Months after the quarterfinal, the Dutch manager suggested the World Cup was fixed for Argentina.
“When you see how Argentina get the goals and how we get the goals and how some Argentine players crossed the line and were not penalized, I think it was all a premeditated game. Messi had to become world champion,” van Gaal told NOS.
Virgil van Dijk, Koeman and other prominent figures in Dutch soccer took distance from van Gaal’s accusations. But the coach’s stance against Argentina looks beyond repair.