Dutch football team no longer opening World Cup; Tinkering is “remarkable” says Van Gaal
The men’s national football teams from the Netherlands and Senegal will no longer play the opening match of the World Cup. Instead, the tournament will open with host country Qatar’s match against Ecuador a day earlier. Dutch manager Louis van Gaal was surprised by the late change, and saw both pluses and minuses to the move.
World football association FIFA adjusted the schedule so that the festivities at the start of the world championship would include the host nation’s team. Originally, the Oranje squad was slated to open the tournament in the early afternoon on Monday, 21 November with their group match against Senegal. That was to be followed a few hours later by Qatar - Ecuador. The latter has now been moved forward a day.
The start time for the Oranje game has been changed from 11 a.m. CET to 5 p.m. The opening match on Sunday, 20 November will also start at 5 p.m., which is 7 p.m. local time. Due to the change, the World Cup will last one day longer than planned, from November 20 to December 18.
With the change, the World Cup custom that the host nation or the defending champion plays in the opener will remain intact. Qatar also wanted to play in the evening because of the fireworks show that precedes the game. In the original schedule, the Netherlands and Senegal were to start the tournament, followed by a game between England and Iran. That match will be played as planned at 2 p.m., and will be followed by the United States versus Wales to close the second day of the tournament.
Van Gaal: Change in World Cup schedule “remarkable”
Dutch men’s national trainer Louis van Gaal said he sees advantages and disadvantages in the team’s modified schedule. "It is remarkable that the match schedule is still being tinkered with so shortly before the tournament," said the trainer. "It is beneficial for us that it will not be as hot in the stadium at the new time, because the sun will have already set. But on the other side of the coin - and I think this is important - our group mates, Ecuador and Qatar, will have one more rest day in the run-up to the second group match."
Van Gaal does not think that the supporters watching in the Netherlands will have a problem with the adjustment. "You get just a little bit more into a football match at five o'clock in the afternoon than on Monday morning at 11 a.m."
The shift will also has consequences for Huis van Oranje, the large-scale fan event that the KNVB is organizing for those who remain in the Netherlands. A screening of the first match was planned for 21 November at AFAS Live in Amsterdam. The Dutch football association does not expect this to cause insurmountable problems for the time being.
Reporting by ANP