Time to focus on the World Cup, says Van Gaal

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (Reuters) – It’s time to put the ‘OneLove’ debate and other controversies aside and focus on the World Cup, Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal said Thursday as his team focused on it prepared to face Ecuador in a competition could decide the top spot in Group A.

With the Netherlands and Ecuador both 2-0 winners in their opening games, Friday’s clash at the Khalifa International Stadium is of added importance and Van Gaal does not want his side to be distracted from the task at hand.

The Netherlands were among seven countries willing to wear OneLove armbands during the World Cup in Qatar until FIFA, the world governing body of football, threatened to book any player wearing them.

The OneLove bracelets were originally launched in 2020 as part of an inclusion campaign by the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB), which said on Wednesday it was considering legal action against FIFA over its decision.

Germany’s players protested FIFA’s decision on Wednesday by covering their mouths in a symbolic gesture before kick-off, then walked out and lost 2-1 to Japan.

Van Gaal said he didn’t know if the protest contributed to Germany’s shock defeat, just that he wouldn’t risk doing anything to distract his men against Ecuador.

“No,” said Van Gaal when asked if his team was planning any protests. “We drew a line after all the political issues last Thursday.

“We have that goal and we will not let the actions of FIFA or any other organization cloud it.

“But I’ve already answered… I think that’s enough.”

Defender Denzel Dumfries, who will have his hands full with Enner Valencia after the striker scored both goals in Ecuador’s 2-0 win over hosts Qatar, shared Van Gaal’s view and said it was time for the three-time finalists to make a move focus on winning.

“We gave that (OneLove) a lot of attention,” Dumfries said. “We’ve talked about it a lot in the past few weeks. But we came to Qatar to play, to play football. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

“We said what we have to say and from now on we have to concentrate on playing football.”

While Ecuador have their goal of reaching the last 16 like in Germany in 2006, the Dutch are aiming for a significantly improved performance against the South Americans to back Van Gaal’s claim that they can go on and win the World Cup.

The Netherlands were far from their best in a 2-0 win against African champions Senegal and are suspicious of an Ecuadorian side he sees as a far greater challenge.

“It (Ecuador) is a stable team,” said Van Gaal. “They are physically strong with very clever players, smart players, so I think they are tougher than Senegal.”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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