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Van Gaal: We have a great chance of being champs

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Van Gaal: We have a great chance of being champs

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The Netherlands arelooking to make two statements in its opening World Cup game on Monday against a Senegal team that have to quickly get over the loss of star forward Sadio Mane.

The first is strictly about football and establishing the team as a contender for the title in Qatar. The Dutch have gained less attention in the build-up to the tournament after failing to qualify for the World Cup in Russia four years ago, but arrive as one of the top form teams in Europe. “We have a great chance of also becoming a world champion,” said Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, who is back for a third spell in charge. “There are few coaches who dared to speak like that, but I say this.”

The second statement the Dutch want to make at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha centres around the long-running criticism of the World Cup host country’s laws and human rights record.The Netherlands soccer federation is the leader of the “One Love” anti-discrimination movement and Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk is expected to wear an armband with a multi-coloured heart-shaped logo in defiance of a FIFA order to keep politics out of the World Cup.

The World Cup will likely be the last major coaching assignment for the 71-year-old van Gaal. Although there’s a long road ahead in Qatar, the Group A game against African champion Senegal is the biggest early challenge for the Dutch and a good indicator of how far they might go. The Netherlands are on a 15-match unbeaten run under van Gaal.

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