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World Cup: Holland coach Louis van Gaal admits cooling break helped in win over Mexico

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates with Louis van Gaal after scoring Holland's winner from the penalty spot against Mexico in the World Cup round of 16
Image: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates with Louis van Gaal after the victory over Mexico

Holland coach Louis van Gaal admitted he used the cooling break to change tactics as his side snatched a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Mexico to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

In searing conditions at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza on Sunday, play was halted for three minutes in each half to allow players from both teams to take on much-needed fluids during the last-16 clash.

Mexico looked on course to progress as they led through Giovani dos Santos’ 48th-minute opener, while goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa later produced an astonishing point-blank save from Stefan de Vrij.

Carlos Salcido of Mexico takes on fluids during a cooling break in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match v the Netherlands
Image: Cooling break: Sweltering conditions

But with time running out, Van Gaal switched his formation and it paid dividends with Wesley Sneijder smashing home an 88th-minute equaliser and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scoring from the spot in the fourth minute of added time after Arjen Robben was brought down by Rafael Marquez.

Van Gaal said: "I first changed to a 4-3-3 and then we created a lot of opportunities with a shot on the post and a fantastic save.

"Then I moved to plan B and yes, I did that in the cooling break. That is a clever way of benefiting from these breaks.

"Did you see what I did?" he asked reporters.

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Van Gaal brought on target man Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, took Dirk Kuyt out of defence to partner him in attack and had his team pump long balls into the Mexico penalty area.

"It's a big compliment that my players picked up on it immediately. We have a modest group of players but they have outstanding team spirit and this is ultimately what led to the victory.

It's a groin injury. He (de Jong) is one of the most important elements in the team, so that was a big drawback, a big setback for us.
Louis van Gaal on Nigel de Jong

"They had faith and believed until the very end. The humidity was not in our favour. We were fresher and fitter than the Mexicans.

"Not only did my players have belief that they could perform today, they also were fit for this match.

"Yes, it was an escape but in the second half we showed that we could create more opportunities and we played three different systems."

Van Gaal was forced into an early change as Nigel de Jong limped off after only nine minutes, with the Holland boss concerned over the defensive midfielder.

"It's a groin injury. He is one of the most important elements in the team, so that was a big drawback, a big setback for us," he admitted.

Captain Robin van Persie, who will play under Van Gaal at Manchester United next season, returned after suspension but was replaced by Huntelaar in the second period.

Van Gaal confirmed there was no injury concern over the striker, saying: "I took him off for tactical reasons."

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