Virgil van Dijk admitted Holland must come up with a specific plan to combat Lionel Messi and keep tabs on him ‘chilling’ while the Dutch attack. Van Dijk will come up against Argentinian superstar Messi when their countries meet in Friday’s World Cup quarter-final.

‘The difficult thing about him is when we are attacking, he is chilling somewhere in a corner or something,’ said Van Dijk. ‘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.’

Messi, 35, has already scored three goals in Qatar including the opener in their 2-1 last-16 win over Australia. And the Liverpool defender Van Dijk is well aware that even when it looks as though Messi is doing very little, he can drift into spaces and punish the opposition. 

‘It is an honour to play against him,’ he added. ‘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.’

‘He is indeed the most dangerous player who creates the most chances and also makes them himself,’ he told NOS (via Voetbal Zone) on Tuesday. ‘But on the other hand he does not play much with the opponent when he has possession of the ball. That is also where our chances lie.’

Van Dijk has come up against Messi before, notably in 2019 when Liverpool overcame a 3-0 first-leg deficit in which Messi scored twice – to reach the Champions League final. Dutch boss Louis van Gaal offered his view that Argentina have to carry Messi as he does not contribute to the defensive side of the game.

Holland’s quarter-final clash risks reigniting one of the great World Cup rivalries with Argentina having largely had the upper hand over the Dutch in years gone by. Argentina won their maiden crown in 1978 by beating Holland, ensuring their players the anguish of losing back-to-back finals. 

‘We still have a score to settle,’ he said. ‘I don’t like to think about it because I thought we would win and then I also exchanged for the win. ‘I would like to convince the people at home to just go and watch the game and cheer for us. Then we will derive a lot of support from that.’

While Van Gaal himself was personally burnt in 2014 when he watched his side go out on penalties to Argentina in Sao Paulo. Most modern football figures might have been expected to downplay the relevance of 2014, but not Van Gaal, who said his side have a score to settle.

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