"I didn't expect the result but I did expect goals. We have players who can turn a match," he said after the game, looking remarkably calm for a coach whose side who had just inflicted a stunning upset win over the reigning world champions. (Agencies)
For Van Gaal it was also a stunning personal triumph after publicly stating weeks ago he would change the tactics and in the process drawing widespread derision from his compatriots.
He said he had wanted to ensure a tight defence and a compact midfield that would not allow Spain to play at too high a tempo. "I think we did it really well and then we were excellent at getting the ball directly forward to our strikers and when you've got players like Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder well then you've always got a chance."
Robben and van Persie both scored twice as the Dutch came from a one goal in a frenetic scoring feast.
"We only had five weeks to work on a new system because we had played 4-3-3 throughout the qualifiers. To be honest the 3-5-2 didn't go too well in the warm-up matches against Ecuador, Ghana and Wales but we kept training and working at it,” he said.
"I didn't think we got it right in the first half either, we lost too much possession to Spain,” he added.
"But when the players got the goal they also got the belief. When they play without doubt as we did in the last 20 minutes and they have a real confidence with the ball, then you see how well we really can play,” the coach said.
"Of course next the shoe will be on the other foot," he said of their next group match against Australia in Porto Alegre next Wednesday.
"Today we didn't have to take the game to Spain, they had to come at us. But our next game against Australia will likely be totally different story," he said.
"I didn't expect the result but I did expect goals. We have players who can turn a match," he said after the game, looking remarkably calm for a coach whose side who had just inflicted a stunning upset win over the reigning world champions.