Virgil Van Dijk is one

Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk remains wary about the threat Lionel Messi poses when the Dutch go up against Argentina in Friday’s World Cup quarter-finals, even though he came out on the winning side the last time they met in club football.

Virgil Van Dijk is one

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Virgil Van Dijk is one

— OnsOranje (@OnsOranje) December 6, 2022

Virgil Van Dijk is one

Van Dijk called Messi the best player he had played against after his side Liverpool came back from a three-goal first-leg deficit to beat Barcelona on their way to winning the 2019 Champions League and has repeated the tribute in Qatar after the Dutch booked their last-eight spot.

“It is an honour to play against him,” said Van Dijk before deflecting any one-on-one comparisons ahead of the meeting at the Lusail Stadium.

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“It is not me against him, or the Netherlands against him, but the Netherlands against Argentina.

“No one can do it on his own, we will have to come up with a good plan.”

That was certainly the case at the 2014 World Cup when Dutch coach Louis van Gaal had to prepare for the threat of Messi in the semi-final in Brazil, although they still ended on the losing side. What they learnt, however, was that defending against Messi is a collective task.

Then Messi had more of a playmaker role but had a centre-back assigned to man-mark him, plus also received special attention from Daley Blind, who was playing in central midfield and successfully cut off much of the Argentine’s line of supply.

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The South Americans won through though, progressing to the final following a penalty shootout after a goalless draw. Blind is the only survivor in the Dutch team eight years on, but now plays as a left wingback while the 35-year-old Messi has a different wandering striker role in a new-look Argentina side.



Van Dijk will add his own lessons from 2019, when Messi had sucker punched Liverpool with two quick goals as Barcelona beat them 3-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, although the first goal was a rebound and the second a sumptuous free kick.

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Van Dijk and his team mates had the last laugh though, winning 4-0 at Anfield in the return and going on to beat Tottenham Hotspur in the final. But Messi still left a strong impression on the Dutch centre back.

“The difficult thing about him is when we are attacking, he is chilling somewhere in a corner or something,” remembered Van Dijk.

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“You have to be so very sharp in terms of defensive organisation. They always looked for him to try to make it difficult for us on the counter.”

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