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Van Dijk wants Netherlands to make amends in Nations League

Netherlands' defender Virgil Van Dijk. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk called on his side to make amends for Nations League disappointment in 2019 on Tuesday, by winning this year’s edition at home. 

The country’s one and only international trophy came in 1988, when they won the European Championships.

The Netherlands reached the 2010 World Cup final where they finished runners-up to Spain and then lost 1-0 against Portugal in the inaugural Nations League final. 

After France beat Spain to triumph in 2021, the Netherlands have another chance to taste international success, facing Croatia in the first semi-final on Wednesday in Rotterdam ahead of Sunday’s prospective final.

“We’re playing for a cup, that’s important — the energy level must be set at high this time,” Van Dijk told a news conference.

“During the first edition we may not have fully realised that we were playing for a cup. That only came after the lost final.” 

The Liverpool centre-back said the Netherlands, who reached the World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar in December, must improve.

“Of course we have to perform better as a team, I want to lift this cup, I want to be number one,” he said.

“But we play Croatia — it’s difficult to beat them.”

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman echoed his captain’s words.

“In hindsight you sometimes think ‘I would have liked to have won that prize’,” said the former Barcelona coach, who was in charge for the 2019 defeat by Portugal.

“The Netherlands does not win a prize that often, so we would like to take this opportunity.

“We play at home this year, of course we’re eager to win this cup, we have to win this cup.”

Koeman confirmed he would line up with Feyenoord goalkeeper Justin Bijlow in goal, playing in his home stadium against Croatia.

Spain face Italy in the second semi-final on Thursday in Enschede.

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