Unity key to Dutch success, says Van Dijk

Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk said he has "only respect" for Argentina's Lionel Messi but believes unity in the Netherlands camp can make the difference in Friday's World Cup quarter-final.

AFP , Wednesday 7 Dec 2022,
Netherlands  defender Virgil van Dijk gives a press conference at the Qatar University Training Site
Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk gives a press conference at the Qatar University Training Site 6 in Doha on December 7, 2022, during the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament. - Netherlands and Argentina will meet in one of the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-finals on December 9. AFP

The Netherlands have not always been known for their team spirit at the World Cup but they were pictured returning to their hotel in a party mood after their last-16 win over the United States.

Coach Louis van Gaal led the way as he danced and celebrated with hotel staff and Van Dijk believes the togetherness in the Dutch squad is "special".

"Everyone knows their role, everyone feels their responsibility in order to get success," said the Liverpool defender.

"It's difficult for the players who are not starting. There are 15 players who want to be starting and they're not.

"It's difficult to still be there for each other but everyone is, and that's the key to success."

Van Dijk said the feeling of unity even extended to the staff at the team's hotel in Doha.

"The scenes after the game at the hotel, the people who work at the hotel, the staff that helps us each and every day were there for us, to welcome us and cheer for us," he said.

"They're also part of the success so far, and hopefully we can keep that going."

There will be no time for partying when the Dutch take on Argentina in a showdown between two of the World Cup's most iconic teams.

The South Americans came out on top when the two sides met in the semi-final of the 2014 tournament, going through on penalties after a tense 0-0 draw.

Van Dijk said the Netherlands have been practicing penalties "since we've been together" and "have to be ready" for the prospect of another shoot-out.

"It doesn't guarantee in a game where you play in a stadium full of 80,000 people and there is a semi-final at stake that everything will go the same," he said.

"We try to do as much as possible in order to be ready for it, but hopefully we don't come to that stage and we can decide the game before."

The Netherlands will look to Van Dijk to stop Messi in what could be the Argentine great's last World Cup match.

The defender paid tribute to "one of the best players of all time" but cautioned that Argentina are not a one-man team.

"We're not just preparing to beat him, we're training to beat Argentina," he said.

"We know how big a part he is of their success over the years."

Check the 2022 World Cup matches and statistics.

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