Virgil's a strong leader: Netherlands manager Koeman

Updated: Jun 06, 2019, 09:14 IST | AFP | Guimaraes

Netherlands manager Koeman feels Champions League star Van Dijk is the man who will play a crucial role in Nations League finals against England

Virgil van Dijk of the Netherlands during an International friendly match against England in Amsterdam last year. Pic/Getty Images
Virgil van Dijk of the Netherlands during an International friendly match against England in Amsterdam last year. Pic/Getty Images

Guimaraes (Portugal): England's long wait for a first international trophy since 1966 could be just days away at the Nations League finals in Portugal, but Ronald Koeman's resurgent Netherlands present a hazardous hurdle for the Three Lions in today's semi-final in Guimaraes.

A run to the semi-finals of last year's World Cup and memorable victories over Spain and Croatia to make the last four of another tournament within 12 months have raised expectations that Gareth Southgate in coaching the generation to finally end England's wait for glory.

Ronald Koeman
Ronald Koeman

By contrast, the Dutch have had a lean few years after failing to make it to Russia last year or qualify for Euro 2016. Even though the Dutch lost a thrilling opening Euro 2000 qualifier 3-2 to Germany in March there are no fears they will miss out for a third consecutive major tournament.

The side captained by the imperious Virgil van Dijk is also blessed with the core of an Ajax side that were seconds away from facing Van Dijk's Liverpool in the Champions League final.

Indeed, there were as many Dutchman as English players in Liverpool's starting line-up as they lifted the European Cup on Saturday with Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum.

One of Koeman's first acts when taking charge of his country last year was to make Van Dijk his skipper having worked with him at Southampton. "When you look at Virgil now, this is a big, big personality on the pitch. He is a leader," Koeman told The Guardian.

"That is why I made him captain. I thought he can carry more responsibility. He is strong; he has a great character and enjoys the responsibility." Van Dijk's man-of-the-match in the Champions League final has increased his chances of winning the Ballon d'Or. Lifting the Nations League would only strengthen his case.

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