Doha – Netherlands captain Virgil says the World Cup will be poorer without his former clubmate Sadio Mane, even though the Dutch now face a weaker Senegal side in their Group A opener on Monday.
Senegal’s talisman Mane was ruled out of the tournament in Qatar late on Thursday after his team’s doctors re-examined a latest batch of scans of his knee injury, suffered playing in the Bundesliga for new club Bayern Munich earlier this month, and said his recovery could take several months.
Mane was Van Dijk’s teammate at Liverpool up to the end of last season and the pair were set for an on-field reunion as the Netherlands and Senegal kick off their World Cup campaigns at the Al Thumama Stadium.
“I am very sorry that Sadio misses the match against us because this World Cup simply deserves the best players, Sadio is one of them,” said Van Dijk.
“Sadio is world class, he is my friend and I will miss him.” Van Dijk also echoed coach Louis van Gaal’s sentiment from earlier in the week that the Dutch could be strong competitors at the tournament.
“For me, Argentina, Brazil and France are the favourite countries,” he told reporters.
“The Brazilians are always there. The Argentines are strong and the French have a great selection. We have a good group, we have a very experienced trainer, but above all we have team spirit.”