Louis van Gaal has a plan to combat Lionel Messi – but he’s not giving all of it away yet.
Van Gaal’s Netherlands will face Messi’s Argentina in a hotly-anticipated 2022 World Cup quarter-final on Friday, December 9.
Netherlands managed to prevent Messi from scoring when they last met Argentina in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup, only to lose on penalties.
Asked about stopping Messi this time around, Netherlands head coach Van Gaal said: “Messi is the most dangerous creative player, he is able to create a lot and to score goals himself. But when they lose the ball he doesn’t participate much, this gives us chances.”
Pushed on what tactical plan he will use against Messi, Van Gaal replied: “You will see on Friday. I won’t tell you.”
Messi, 35, will be up against former Barcelona team-mate Frenkie de Jong.
De Jong played with Messi for two seasons at Barca but is uncertain how to stop the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner from influencing the game.
“Well, no. I know him, but I don’t know how to stop him. He’s been making the difference for 15 years and there is not one way to stop him.
“Usually he would still make the difference during training too. We just have to stop him as a team. We haven’t texted each other. I am not planning to. We will see each other on Friday.”
Perhaps key to Netherlands’ chances will be captain Virgil van Dijk.
Van Dijk has faced Messi several times in domestic competition when Liverpool have met Barcelona.
“It is an honour to play against him,” said Van Dijk.
Watch Argentina fans celebrating wildly as Messi leads team to quarter-finals
“It is not me against him, or the Netherlands against him, but the Netherlands against Argentina.
“No one can do it on his own, we will have to come up with a good plan.
“The difficult thing about him is when we are attacking, he is chilling somewhere in a corner or something.
“You have to be so very sharp in terms of defensive organisation. They always looked for him to try to make it difficult for us on the counter.”
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