Holland breezed through the group stages and many had tipped them to go all the way after disposing of Mexico and Costa Rica in the knockout rounds. Although a place in the final was denied by the lottery of the shootout, van Gaal is happy with his side’s progress.
"We played a fantastic tournament," the new United boss said. "No-one had expected us to make it through to the next phase, so as group winners we moved on.
"After that, we defeated Mexico - a team who are not easy to beat and are solid in terms of their organisation. Argentina are a top country with top players. We didn't lose against them, but the penalties are down to luck."
Netherlands were favourites to win the shoot-out, given the Oranje did not miss from 12 yards in their quarter-final success against Costa Rica. But van Gaal struggled to find enough players to take the spot-kicks in Sao Paulo, which surprised him greatly.
"It should give you confidence; we took those penalties in an incredible way against Costa Rica," the Dutchman told reporters. "But the issue is you need to score the first one and I asked two players to take the first ball before ending up with Ron Vlaar.
"I thought he was the best player on the pitch so should have a lot of confidence," van Gaal continued. "It just goes to show it is not easy scoring in a penalty shoot-out. It's