Holland’s Van Gaal Faces World Cup Dilemma Over Top Players

Netherlands national team coach Louis van Gaal says Dutch players at top European soccer clubs may miss out on a place on his World Cup roster because of the lack of time he’ll have to prepare them for the tournament.

Van Gaal says he can start selecting and preparing players from teams in the Netherlands on May 7, more than a month before the World Cup kicks off in Brazil on June 12. He may have as little as a week to work with players who reach the final stages of European club competition with teams in other countries.

The coach would pick someone from a Dutch club for his squad “if I think the difference between players abroad or in Holland is marginal,” he told reporters in Florianopolis, Brazil, where World Cup coaches gathered for a two-day workshop.

Soccer’s global calendar has created tension between national team and league-level coaches as players have limited time to prepare for the World Cup after their club seasons end. Van Gaal said he is concerned he won’t have enough time to work with two of his top competitors, striker Robin van Persie of Manchester United and Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben.

Players must have a week’s rest after their club season ends before they can join up with the World Cup squad, according to rules set by soccer’s governing body FIFA. Europe’s Champions League final is slated for May 24 and the Dutch national team is scheduled to leave for Brazil on June 5.

‘Very Difficult’

“If Bayern Munich plays against Manchester United in the final, then I don’t have the players in training sessions,” said Van Gaal, who won the Champions League as coach of Ajax of Amsterdam in 1995. Van Persie and Robben “are my two captains. These guys are always playing in my squad, so it’s very difficult to prepare.”

FIFA President Sepp Blatter insisted on soccer games globally stopping for a period before the World Cup, saying after the 2006 tournament that he thought players were tired.

“Any special exemptions with regards to the mandatory rest period -- May 19-25 in the case of Brazil 2014 -- may only be granted by the FIFA Executive Committee,” FIFA said in a statement. That was the case in 2010 for the UEFA Champions League final, before the World Cup in South Africa.

Luiz Felipe Scolari, coach of host nation Brazil, also said that the time to work with European club players is too short.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s the time we have,” he said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.