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Van Dijk says Netherlands-Argentina is not just about Messi

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Virgil van Dijk was adamant that the Netherlands’ World Cup quarter-final against Argentina on Friday was not a battle against Lionel Messi, but added that his side would be cautious in their approach against the Argentinian superstar.

The Dutch skipper stayed on message while answering a flurry of questions on how the Netherlands will deal with the threat of Messi at the Lusail Stadium: it will be a team effort.

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“It’s not about me, or the Netherlands against Messi, it’s about the Netherlands against Argentina,” Van Dijk told a press conference on Wednesday.

In response to a question about their concern over the threat of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, Van Dijk said: “Worried no, but cautious about what Argentina can bring to the game.

“They’re a fantastic team with fantastic players, and we’re going to have to do well in all areas of the game.”

He agreed his team could have played better in Qatar so far, even if they didn’t lose a game and won their group, but diplomatically dodged the question of whether criticism of their home performances was typically Dutch.

“We also think our play in the last game could have been better,” Van Dijk said of a 3-1 round of 16 win over USA. “We are all perfectionists and we would have liked to do better. But the good thing is that we are still in the competition and playing the quarter-finals.”

The Dutch are eager to break new ground and win a World Cup after losing in three finals.

“There is a hunger, dreams and a feeling that we really want to get it [the World Cup]”, said Van Dijk. “When you are in the quarter-finals, you are only three games away from glory.

“It’s our opportunity. But obviously we have to overtake an Argentinian team with one of the best players of all time.”

The Dutch also face the possibility that the majority of the roughly 80,000 spectators will be cheering for Argentina as a surprisingly small number of orange-clad Dutch supporters have travelled.

Usually the Netherlands get plenty of support on the road, but without them Van Dijk thinks an early goal could be important to calm down the opposition fans.

“Then it becomes a whole different game,” Van Dijk said. “But I think it will be nice to play in such an atmosphere.”

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