Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk insists he won’t be swept by his Euro 2020 heartbreak when the countdown to his first World Cup begins.
The Netherlands captain, whose country failed to qualify for Russia in 2018 and followed a similar fate for the European Championship two years earlier, has yet to feature in a major tournament.
A knee injury in a Merseyside derby in October 2020 meant he missed the Covid-delayed 2020 European Championships, so aged 31 Qatar could potentially be his only chance at a World Cup.
But the Dutchman is not afraid of the next few months and certainly won’t hold back in club games to secure his immediate future.
“I can only speak for myself and I wouldn’t worry,” said Van Dijk, who will lead his country in next week’s Nations League games against Poland and Belgium.
“I want to go, but being ready, in my opinion, doesn’t mean focusing on hopefully not getting hurt, it’s just going to keep playing, getting fit, staying fit and having a good moment.
“If you think about it (hurt yourself), I think you’re going to have problems.
“It’s just game by game and that includes international football. For me it’s two games against Poland and Belgium and then Brighton, so that will be the focus. I’m not focused on what happens in November.”
Van Dijk spent 10 months on the touchline after Everton’s England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford tore his knee ligaments in a tackle.
He returned at the start of the 2021-22 season and despite concerns about how quickly he would return to top performances he made an immediate impression and was a key part of the run to an unprecedented quadruple which saw Liverpool win the FA and Carabao Cups, reach the champions league final and lead the title race until the last 15 minutes of the season.
Liverpool’s start to the year has been a stuttering one, with two losses – already half their 63-game record last season – and three draws in eight games.
The players’ form – including Van Dijk’s – has been patchy but the centre-back doesn’t think the mid-season World Cup prospect is the reason.
“Not at all, not at all. I can assure you that is definitely not the case,” he added.
“That’s not why we’re in this situation. I understand that because of the start we’ve had, everyone is looking for “why?”. because the difference (from last season) is too big, but I can assure you that this is definitely not one of the reasons.
“You’re focused on the game at the time and that’s definitely what we’re doing.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/virgil-van-dijk-qatar-liverpool-russia-covid-b2170785.html Virgil van Dijk is not plagued by an injury nightmare as the first major tournament draws near