Virgil van Dijk was saddened to hear his former Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane would miss the World Cup, but he hopes the Netherlands will profit from the Senegal star’s absence on Monday.
Africa Cup of Nations champions Senegal suffered a huge blow on Thursday, when it was confirmed Mane would not recover from a fibula injury in time to feature at the tournament.
Mane has been directly involved in 12 of the last 25 goals scored by Senegal players at either the Africa Cup of Nations or the World Cup, leading coach Aliou Cisse to concede the Lions of Teranga would have to cope without their best player in Qatar.
Although Van Dijk acknowledges Mane’s woes could benefit the Netherlands in Monday’s Group A meeting, he has been in touch with the Bayern Munich attacker and pities his misfortune.
“I called him the next day. I wanted to know how he was, first and foremost, because there were so many rumours that he was out for a while,” Van Dijk said of his reaction to Mane’s injury.
“As a friend, I wanted to know how he was. Unfortunately, at the time, he’d already not had the best of news, but there was a little bit of hope, everyone thought.
“Unfortunately, he won’t be able to make this tournament and I feel sad for him. I know how hard he worked for this. He wants to be important for Senegal and he has been important for them, in the last couple of years especially.
“It’s tough. Obviously he’s going to be a big miss for them, and hopefully we can benefit from that a little bit as well.”
Although the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia, they have won 11 of their last 14 World Cup matches (D2 L1), with their only loss during that run coming in 2010’s final against Spain.
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