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Dec, 2022

Soccer-Van Dijk is one-up over Messi but still rates him best

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.

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.

“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.

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.

ch4socceracademy / reuters

By Mark Gleeson


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