Dutch skipper Van Dijk dodges Messi questions

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Netherlands Training - Qatar University Training Site 6, Doha, Qatar - December 6, 2022 Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk during training REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

DOHA, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Virgil van Dijk deflected several questions about his looming confrontation with Lionel Messi but admitted the Netherlands would be cautious in their approach against Argentina in Friday’s World Cup quarter-final.

The Dutch skipper stuck to the same line in fielding a flurry of enquiries about how he and his team mates will deal with the threat of Messi at the Lusail Stadium.

"It’s not about me, or the Netherlands, against Messi, it’s about the Netherlands against Argentina," he repeated several times at a news conference on Wednesday.

In response to a question about how worried they might be about the threat of the seven-times Ballon d’Or winner, Van Dijk said: "Worried no, but cautious of what Argentina can bring to the game.

"They are a fantastic team with fantastic players, and we are going to have to do well in all departments of the match."

He agreed that his side could have played better in Qatar, despite not losing a game and winning their group, but diplomatically dodged a question about whether criticism of their performances back home was typically Dutch.

"We also feel that our play in the last game could have been better," he said. "We are all perfectionists and could like to have performed better. But what is nice is that we are still in the competition and playing in 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)," Van Dijk said.

"When you are in the quarter-finals you are only three games from glory. This is our opportunity. But obviously we have to get past an Argentina side with one of the best players of all time."

The Dutch also face the possibility of the majority of the 80,000-odd crowd cheering on Argentina as a surprisingly small number of orange-clad Dutch supporters have travelled.

Usually, the Dutch get significant support on the road but without them, Van Dijk believes an early goal might be important to quieten the opposing fans.

"Then it comes a whole different game," he said. "But I think it will be nice to play in such an ambiance."

Editing by Ed Osmond, editing by Ed Osmond

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