Holland are one of the favourites to win the competition after annihilating world champions Spain before gleaning maximum points from their other group games with Australia and Chile. Javier Hernandez’s Mexico were then duly dispatched with a stunning late turnaround in the weekend’s last-16 tie.
In contrast, Costa Rica required extra-time to beat underdogs Greece. But despite this struggle, and the opposition's 28th place in the FIFA world rankings, van Gaal refutes suggestions that his Dutch side has an easy route to the semi-finals.
“Let me tell you, the Dutch media thought we would never survive the first round, so how we ended up becoming up favourites I’ll never know,” the new United boss told reporters with typical honesty earlier this week.
“This group of players is very modest. We have outstanding spirit, outstanding atmosphere and that led to victory. Costa Rica are very difficult opponents, otherwise they wouldn’t have ended up in a quarter final.”
Van Gaal has also eased fears that Robin van Persie may be injured after the United striker was substituted with 15 minutes left to play in Sunday’s dramatic 2-1 win over Mexico, explaining that the decision was made for competitive reasons alone.