Van Dijk may struggle to end season with prize: ‘Old feeling must return’
Virgil van Dijk is bound to have reported to the Orange with a happier mind at some point. He had a difficult season with Liverpool. Criticism of the defender’s performance at home and abroad also swelled in earnest. “It can’t always be top. This is part of life as a footballer,” said the 56-time international.
Nevertheless, the captain of the Dutch national team can end his season with a prize. The Netherlands can seize the Nations League next week. The Dutch had previously qualified for the Final Four of the Nations League. The mini-tournament to be held in the Netherlands next week.
Next Wednesday, Croatia awaits in the semifinals and if they win, Orange will meet Spain or Italy. The match between the Netherlands and Croatia and the final will be played in Rotterdam (de Kuip) and the other semifinal will be finished in the Grolsch Veste (Enschede).
Van Dijk could use the dessert. He finished fifth in the league with Liverpool and as a result failed to qualify with his club for next year’s Champions League. Liverpool did participate in this season’s edition, but Van Dijk & co were eliminated without a chance by Real Madrid.
“No doubt, frustrating though”
45-year-old Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher said after the first beating (5-2 at home) that he could still take Van Dijk’s spot.
In the Netherlands, another icon drew fierce criticism. During the World Cup in Qatar, at which the Netherlands was eliminated in the quarter-finals, Marco van Basten said that Van Dijk talks a lot, but “says nothing.” And then the Netherlands’ hopeless defeat against France (0-4) in March was yet to come.
“I had no doubts, but it was frustrating,” Van Dijk said of his season.
Van Dijk agrees that it was a season with “too many ups and downs.” He felt it was “a shock” that it was not consistent enough as a team this year, especially at Liverpool, but adds that things have improved a lot in England in recent months. “With help from my wife and people at the club,” he said.
The 31-year-old defender is aware that things will have to improve with the Dutch national team as well. The first international period under new national coach Ronald Koeman did not go as desired due to the big defeat in France and the meager home victory over dwarf state Gibraltar (3-0).
And that while Van Dijk did achieve successes with Oranje in Koeman’s first period as national coach. “The old feeling must return. I also discussed that with the national team coach.”
The Liverpool player believes a negative climate should not be created too soon now. “We had a turbulent week in March with injuries and illnesses,” referring to what has become popularly known as the chicken curry incident.
Van Dijk does call the defeat at the time “Oranje-unworthy” and understands that as captain he is under a magnifying glass and thus receives criticism.
The former defender of FC Groningen, Celtic and Southampton, among others, thinks that the mood around Orange can turn around very quickly. “I am someone who thinks positively,” he said. After all, the Netherlands can stand with a prize hands in their own country next Sunday.
“We are playing for a prize, there has to be that realization. We have to do everything to win that cup,” said Van Dijk, who already played a Nations League final once under Koeman in 2019. Then they lost to Portugal (1-0). “We saw then he was happy Portugal. It’s really about a prize after all.”
If Orange wins the trophy, Van Dijk will end a difficult season nicely after all. Although he is already making an upbeat impression, partly because of the pleasant weather conditions in the Zeister woods and because of the Cruijff Court he will officially open in “his” Breda. “That makes me proud.”
“Hopefully the kids will have a lot of fun there. That’s where the basis for success lies. Breda continues to have a special place in my heart,” Van Dijk concluded.