Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk hits back at pundit for criticizing his 2022 FIFA World Cup performance

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk has hit back at pundit Marco van Basten for his criticisms following the Netherlands’ 1-1 FIFA World Cup draw against Ecuador on 25 November.

Holland went in front via a sixth-minute Cody Gakpo goal, but that was as good as it got for them in the attacking third. Manager Louis van Gaal’s side were put under pressure for large parts of their second FIFA World Cup group stage game.

Ecuador’s resilience paid off when they scored in the 48th minute. Van Dijk was accused of not pressuring Pervis Estupinan before his shot was deflected into Enner Valencia’s path by goalkeeper Andries Noppert.

Nathan Ake was slow to react to the save and Valencia had an easy tap-in to draw his team level. Jurrien Timber was equally at fault after losing possession in the build-up to the equalizer.

After the game, van Basten, who represented the Netherlands at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, questioned Van Dijk’s leadership and told NOS (h/t beIN Sports):

“You go in front very quickly and then I think a thought arises: OK, we are ahead, we have to defend. But that is something that does not help us. I think Virgil should play the leading role in that. He talks a lot, but says nothing.

“Who’s the best player on the team? That’s Virgil. When you see what he does in possession… It’s just tapping a ball to the players next to him. He needs to pick up the pace. It just goes way too slow.”

In response to the comments, Liverpool’s Van Dijk told Voetbal International:

“It is easy to make an analysis from [NOS headquarters in] Hilversum. I don’t want to say that I played a fantastic game, not at all.

“But the things that are said about me failing as a captain: what do you do with that? I’m always at the front, I lead the team in the best way possible.”

Van Basten unhappy with Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk’s defending in FIFA World Cup draw vs Ecuador

Apart from questioning the Liverpool centre-back’s leadership, Van Basten questioned why Estupinan wasn’t challenged before he could get his shot away.

Van Basten, who is one of the most candid pundits around, blasted Van Dijk’s lack of aggression before Ecuador’s equalizer, and said (h/t @TheEuropeanLad):

“Van Dijk is just waiting and watching him shoot. What is he looking at? He needs to be on top of him! He just lets him shoot!”

The Netherlands will have a chance to set things right when they face Qatar in their final 2022 FIFA World Cup group-stage match on 29 November. A point will be enough to see them through to the last 16.

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