SAO PAULO (AP) — Louis van Gaal will have to shuffle his defense and attack in the Netherlands’ final World Cup Group B match against Chile after center back Bruno Martins Indi was ruled out with a concussion and Robin van Persie through suspension.
The good news for the Dutch is that the enforced changes come in a match between two teams already qualified for the round of 16.
Van Gaal said Sunday that Martins Indi has not yet recovered sufficiently from a concussion he suffered when he fell heavily after a late challenge by Tim Cahill as the Dutch beat Australia 3-2.
Martins Indi spent a night in a hospital after being stretchered off the pitch at the end of the first half in Porto Alegre on Wednesday.
The defender said he still doesn’t know when he might be fit to play again.
During the Dutch training session at the Itaquerao Stadium, Martins Indi did no more than jog around the pitch with a trainer.
“I’m good. I’m taking small steps forward,” he said. “The days are going well and I’m back on the field.”
The Netherlands will also be missing van Persie, who is suspended after picking up two yellow cards in the tournament.
Van Gaal blamed a combination of bad refereeing and poor discipline for his captain’s absence.
“The first yellow card against Spain, it was a stupid yellow card, but the second it was not a yellow card,” he said. “So that’s also a consequence of a referee.”
Van Gaal declined to say who would replace Van Persie up front. Veteran forward Dirk Kuyt is an option as are Jeremain Lens and Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
Van Gaal said some other players are also not fully fit, but declined to name them.
With both teams having already qualified for the round of 16, Monday’s match will decide which of them wins Group B.
Van Gaal said he expects a tricky match against an opponent he has long predicted would be the toughest team in the group.
“It’s a team to watch,” he said. “I think they have a fantastic coach who gets his players playing fanatically, extremely attacking, and extremely combative and they’ve been playing that way for more than six months.”
The Dutch coach also criticized FIFA for scheduling Brazil’s final Group A game later than the Netherlands-Chile match, meaning that Brazil will know which team has finished top of Group B and potentially be able to play for a result that would allow the host to avoid meeting either the Netherlands of Chile.
Brazil’s first two group matches were played earlier than the Group B games. On Monday, the final two Group B matches are played at 1 p.m. local time and the final Group A matches at 5 p.m.
“It is not good of course. It is not fair play,” Van Gaal said. “We are going to play for the win against Chile and that is … not influenced by the fact that Brazil plays after us. I assume that they will also fulfil their sporting obligations. But it always leads to discussion if you do that so why do people do that?”
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Van Gaal’s criticism.
Chile star midfielder Arturo Vidal played down the issue.
“I think the rules of the World Cup were established a long time ago and that Brazil will play after us,” he said. “If we want to become world champions we will have to face every team.”
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