Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal praises Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech | Football

The Dutch coach is a big fan of the Moroccan playmaker (Picture: Getty Images)

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal has praised Morocco star Hakim Ziyech and feels he has fully justified his return to the national team with his performances at the World Cup.

The 29-year-old has struggled for game time at Chelsea over the past couple of seasons while he had a massive falling out with previous Morocco manager Vahid Halilhodzic – which saw him ostracised from international duty.

But the appointment of Walid Regragui earlier this year saw Ziyech welcomed back into the fold and he has delivered some superb performances in Qatar to help his side reach the quarter-final, where they will now face Portugal after knocking out Spain.

Van Gaal – who is preparing for his own tie against Argentina on Friday – was asked a lengthy question about Morocco’s progress at the World Cup and the abundance of Moroccan players who have played in the Eredivisie, as well as being asked for his thoughts on manager Regragui.

‘Well I can’t judge [axed Spain boss] Luis Enrique nor can I judge or assess your head coach [Regragui],’ said the Netherlands boss at his pre-match press conference on Thursday before facing Argentina.

‘But I can answer the other question by talking about Ziyech for instance. He was of course trained in the Netherlands and Ziyech is a wonderful player.

‘He makes an enormous contribution to the Moroccan squad and before this new head coach came in he wasn’t being played, so that says something about the head coach.

Ziyech has shone for Morocco at the World Cup (Picture: Reuters)

‘I think it’s great that Morocco has advanced in the World Cup because Morocco is not known for being a top football country.

‘But in general if we look at the Moroccan players in our league [Eredivisie], usually they are technically very skilled and I think it’s always a pleasure to watch them play football.’

Ziyech – who came through the academy at Heerenveen before playing for FC Twente and Ajax – was born in the Netherlands and actually played for them up to Under-21 level until declaring for Morocco.

Van Gaal, meanwhile, has faced criticism of his side’s style of play but insists it is a by-product of how football has evolved in recent years and stood by his claim that Brazil and the Netherlands play similar, counter-attack football.

He continued: ‘You keep asking me about my style of play, you don’t understand that it’s much harder to play attacking football now than 20 years ago. Football has evolved.

‘Brazil are almost doing the exact same as the Dutch national team [in how they play] it’s just that they have very technical players. Yet everyone says Brazil are still a top favourite while we are only a country who could win it.’

MORE : ‘It will be easy!’ – Rafael van der Vaart predicts Netherlands to hammer ‘not so great’ Argentina

MORE : Virgil van Dijk insists it’s ‘Netherlands vs Argentina, not me vs Lionel Messi’ ahead of World Cup clash

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