'Best defender' Van Dijk flattered by Haaland praise ahead of Norway-Netherlands showdown

By Sports Desk August 31, 2021

Virgil van Dijk was flattered by Erling Haaland's belief the Netherlands captain is "the best defender" in the world.

The pair are set to face off when the Oranje travel to Norway for their 2022 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday.

An intriguing duel should challenge both players, with Haaland full of praise for Van Dijk when he addressed the media on Monday.

"I think he is the best defender. I think quite a few others in the room agree with me on that," the Borussia Dortmund forward said.

"He is fast, strong and smart, and those are three important things you must have."

Those comments were on Tuesday put to Van Dijk, who replied: "Did he say that? That's nice of him."

The Liverpool man is relishing his return to the international stage, having missed Euro 2020 due to injury.

"I'm incredibly happy that I'm here again, with the guys, working towards a very important game," Van Dijk said.

"Everyone is sharp, looking forward to playing. Everyone is focused, which is great to see."

This will also be the Netherlands' first game since the return of Louis van Gaal, who is back for a third spell in charge.

Norway are tied with the visitors on six points from three games in Group G, one shy of early leaders Turkey.

Related items

  • Van Dijk understands Netherlands criticism at Euro 2024 Van Dijk understands Netherlands criticism at Euro 2024

    Netherlands captain Virgil Van Dijk understands the criticism of his side at Euro 2024, despite remaining unbeaten in the tournament following their goalless draw against France last time out. 

    The Dutch came from behind to win their opening Group D game against Poland, before holding out for a point against a wasteful showing from Les Bleus. 

    In a game dominated by Didier Deschamps' side, the Netherlands recorded their lowest possession figure in a Euros game on record (since 1980) with 37%. 

    Despite this, excluding shootouts, the Oranje have lost just one of their last 18 games at major international tournaments, coming at Euro 2020 against Czechia (W12 D5). 

    Van Dijk and his team-mates were criticised by pundits and newspaper columnists after the game against France, but the Liverpool captain was unmoved by the comments. 

    "Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, that's fine," he said. "It doesn't bother me, it's part of football. If it irritated me, I would have a very unpleasant life.

    "Expectations are high, also among ourselves. We have a good team; I sincerely think so. We want to show it in big matches. After the match against France, we as players clearly said to each other what needs to be improved.

    “We can and must do better than we did against France. We can still make progress in this European Championship."

    The Netherlands face Austria in Berlin on Tuesday to conclude their group campaign. 

    Ronald Koeman's side knows that should they equal or better France's result against Poland, they will finish top of Group D ahead of the knockout stages. 

  • Pulisic says USA were 'flying' against Bolivia after inspirational display Pulisic says USA were 'flying' against Bolivia after inspirational display

    Christian Pulisic felt the United States made a flying start to the Copa America with their impressive victory over Bolivia in Texas.

    Milan star Pulisic stole the show with an eye-catching strike into the top corner, and he added an assist for Folarin Balogun as the USA opened their campaign with a 2-0 win on home soil on Sunday.

    Pulisic became only the second USA player after Clint Dempsey to register a goal and an assist in a Copa America match, while he is also now the country's quickest player to reach 30 goals, doing so in his 69th game.

    An inspired performance from the captain also ended a woeful run for the USA against CONMEBOL sides at this tournament, given Gregg Berhalter's side had previously lost eight of 10 such games.

    Pulisic felt that USA could easily have won by a greater margin, with the strong performance making a statement ahead of their next group games against Panama and Uruguay.

    "We should build some confidence from this and feel good," Pulisic said after the game.

    "We came out flying with a lot of intensity and obviously that early goal helped us a lot.

    "It's Copa America, it's a big tournament. I feel like I'm always pretty excited after I score, but it's a big moment, it's a major tournament.

    "All around, it was a pretty dominant performance. I think we could have put it away and had more goals there.

    "The games are just going to get tougher and tougher as the tournament goes on, so we have got to be ready." 

    Defender Antonee Robinson also felt USA could easily have won by more.

    "If we were being picky, we could have been a lot more clinical," the Fulham player said. "We could have put another two or three goals away, but getting off to a win to start with is massive for us.

    "Build the confidence, show we are here to win, here to play and it puts us in good stead for the next game."

    USA head coach Berhalter was delighted with the impact made by Pulisic, whose opening strike had an expected goals (xG) tally of just 0.037.

    The tournament hosts racked up 20 shots, finding the target with eight, compared to tallies of six and three respectively for Bolivia.

    As part of an all-action display, Pulisic created three chances, sent in 10 crosses and superbly completed 21 of the game-high 22 passes he attempted in the final third.

    "He is a selfless leader," said Berhalter. "He goes out and competes and works really hard. That helps the team.

    "Then you add to the fact that he is highly skilled and can make plays on the offensive end and create chances. It is a great combination, and what you see is him supporting his teammates, him backing guys, him pushing guys. 

    "To me, it was an outstanding performance. He got coach's man of the match and it was much deserved.

    "We will always look at chance creation as a marker of performance, and I think we created enough chances. 

    "I like the performance for an opening game against a difficult opponent. We are in a good position."

    Bolivia, meanwhile, have now lost their last four international outings by a concerning margin of 9-1, having suffered defeats against Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and USA.

    They face Uruguay, who won their opener 3-1 against Panama, on Thursday.

    USA will play Panama earlier on the same day before concluding their Group C campaign against Uruguay on July 1.

  • Bielsa left wanting more despite Uruguay's winning start at Copa America Bielsa left wanting more despite Uruguay's winning start at Copa America

    Marcelo Bielsa insists there is room for improvement for Uruguay, despite kicking off their Copa America campaign with a 3-1 win over Panama in Florida. 

    Uruguay's win saw them move level on points with hosts the United States following their victory over Bolivia in the other Group C encounter. 

    The 15-time winners were rewarded for their fast start when Maximilian Araujo curled home his first international goal in the 16th minute. 

    However, Panama would grow into the contest as Jose Fajardo and Jose Rodriguez squandered golden opportunities for Thomas Christiansen's side. 

    And their wastefulness was punished late on as Darwin Nunez, who had missed several chances in the game, settled Uruguay's nerves with a calm finish. 

    Matias Vina furthered La Celeste's advantage in the first minute of injury-time with a header, only for Michael Amir Murillo to net a late consolation for Panama. 

    However, Bielsa was quick to temper expectations despite the triumph, insisting his side must improve to secure a record 16th Copa America crown. 

    The 68-year-old took charge of Uruguay in May last year, beating both Argentina and Brazil in World Cup qualifiers. 

    "When it comes to Uruguay's aspirations, we will see that and build it match by match," he told reporters.

    "My expectation is that each match will increasingly help us to improve on our level. Uruguay has players of a very good level and we need to see if I can build with those players."

    Uruguay continue their group campaign against Bolivia in New Jersey on Thursday, before facing the USA at the Arrowhead Stadium next Tuesday. 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.