Because the Netherlands return to the World Cup after lacking out in 2018 they are going to be led by Virgil van Dijk, who has grown into one of many sport’s finest defenders. Runners-up in 1974, 1978 and 2010, the Netherlands got here inside a penalty shootout of reaching a fourth World Cup ultimate in 2014 when Louis van Gaal’s squad defied expectations to make the semi-finals. The straight-talking Van Gaal is again for a 3rd stint accountable for the nationwide staff, courageously popping out of retirement whereas receiving therapy for aggressive prostate most cancers.
The 71-year-old underwent 25 bouts of radiotherapy, together with throughout coaching camps with the nationwide staff, and watched from a wheelchair following a motorbike accident because the Dutch certified for Qatar final November.
Van Gaal, christened the ‘Iron Tulip’ in his homeland for his authoritarian type, neglected a younger Van Dijk for the 2014 finals, however the Liverpool centre-back has since developed into the metal spine round which the staff is constructed.
Van Dijk additionally missed out on Euro 2020 final yr after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
So remarkably, by means of a mixture of circumstance and misfortune, solely now’s the 31-year-old set to look at his first main worldwide event.
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“We’ve got to imagine in our qualities and ourselves and be assured,” Van Dijk mentioned.
“We’ve got a unbelievable supervisor, an skilled supervisor. We’ve got gamers who play on the highest stage, the largest golf equipment on the planet.”
Van Dijk’s emergence coincided with a transitional interval for the Dutch, who did not qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
The Oranje suffered a disappointing last-16 exit at Euro 2020 with out the injured Van Dijk, however they’re unbeaten in 15 video games for the reason that reappointment of Van Gaal in August 2021.
“We’ve got expertise, we have now expertise, we have now a very good combination. At first we have now staff spirit – I believe that is the begin to the important thing to success,” mentioned Van Dijk.
“It is not assured success after all however it’s a great way to start out and we’re trying ahead to the primary sport.”
Rise to the highest
Van Dijk grew to become the world’s costliest defender when Liverpool signed him for 75 million kilos from Southampton in January 2018.
Liverpool completed runners-up to Actual Madrid within the Champions League just a few months later, however the Reds bought their palms on European membership’s soccer greatest prize the next season.
Van Dijk misplaced out on the 2019 Ballon d’Or to Lionel Messi by a handful of votes however earned the popularity of his friends by profitable the English PFA Gamers’ participant of the yr prize.
He performed each minute throughout the Covid-interrupted 2019-20 marketing campaign as Liverpool ended a 30-year look forward to the English title, just for harm to then strike him down.
Van Dijk selected to provide himself time to completely heal as a substitute of speeding again for Euro 2020, however he has made up for misplaced time as evidenced by a latest report by world gamers’ union FIFPro.
It confirmed Van Dijk had performed probably the most minutes of these analysed — 7,597 in 78 video games — between July 12, 2021 and October 24 this yr.
The report highlighted the unprecedented calls for posed by a mid-season World Cup, however in Qatar Van Dijk a minimum of will lastly get his probability on the largest stage.
“It will be a really large one towards the African champions,” he mentioned of Monday’s Group A opener towards a Senegal aspect lacking star man Sadio Mane, an in depth pal of Van Dijk’s.
“I am very unhappy for him that he will miss the event,” mentioned Van Dijk. “I am undoubtedly going to overlook seeing him on the market.
“(However) we’ll do all the things in our energy to get a very good outcome and begin our World Cup in the easiest way attainable.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV employees and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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