EPL

Van Dijk driven by World Cup regret as Liverpool refuse to give up on title in 'crazy' season

By Sports Desk January 02, 2023

Virgil van Dijk has not given up on Liverpool's Premier League title hopes despite being 15 points behind Arsenal.

The Reds came from behind to beat Leicester City 2-1 at Anfield on Friday thanks to two Wout Faes own goals, making it four league wins on the bounce for Jurgen Klopp's men.

Van Dijk previously acknowledged Liverpool's performance against the Foxes had been underwhelming, but results are suddenly looking up for a side that had headed into November with just two wins – and three defeats – in seven top-flight games.

Liverpool are four points adrift of great rivals Manchester United in fourth, and yet Van Dijk is still not admitting defeat in the Premier League title race, even though Arsenal are starting to create a handsome lead over everyone.

For Van Dijk, this belief and motivation has partly come from his experience at the World Cup, where the Netherlands were eliminated by eventual winners Argentina in a feisty quarter-final.

He remains hopeful of international success being just around the corner, and this mentality is seemingly keeping his eyes on the prize with Liverpool as well.

"Things were disappointing in the end [for the Netherlands], that is also part of football," he told reporters.

"It was a tough couple of days but then it was about switching back towards the most important things in life; my wife and kids.

"It fuels me because I want to be successful with the Netherlands. I feel like we have a fantastic squad and new era with Ronald Koeman coming back and young players coming through, like Cody [Gakpo] for example. He can make big steps with his transfer [to Liverpool] and then become more important [for the Netherlands].

"Hopefully we can do something nice in the summer with the Nations League finals, that is something I really want to win, even though it is the end of the season when you are absolutely shattered.

"It has also motivated me here. We are quite some points behind Arsenal, but the season could be a very crazy one, a very strange one.

"But we have to be realistic and we're not thinking about the title at the moment. We have to focus on the game ahead of us, win games and then we'll see."

Liverpool are next in action away to Brentford on Monday.

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    England passed up the chance to progress to the knockout stage of Euro 2024 with a game to spare as they were pegged back to a 1-1 draw by Denmark in Frankfurt. 

    Harry Kane's goal in the 18th minute had eased the early Three Lions nerves, only for Morten Hjulmand to take aim from distance and fire beyond Jordan Pickford. 

    Yet bar the move for Kane's opener, England's performance was deeply lacklustre, and Gareth Southgate may well face scrutiny, even though the Three Lions remain in pole position in Group C.

    Denmark, who looked the more likely to win it in the second half, sit second, ahead of Slovenia and Serbia, who drew in Thursday's earlier match.

    There were calls for concern early on in the contest as Kyle Walker was the first to succumb to a choppy surface, taking a chunk out of the pitch as he went forward, requiring a change of footwear. 

    Walker showed no signs of an injury, however, taking advantage of Victor Kristiansen's lapse in concentration to sprint clear before his deflected cross found Kane, who tucked away his 64th international goal. 

    But as was the case against Serbia, Southgate's side failed to nail home their advantage, and this time they were punished as Hjulmand rifled home the 13th goal scored from outside the box at Euro 2024.

    Denmark concluded the first half much the better team, with Joachim Andersen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg going close to giving Kasper Hjulmand's team an advantage at the break.

    England almost regained their advantage when Phil Foden was able to find space to send an effort towards Kasper Schmeichel's goal early in the second half, only for the post to come to the Danes' rescue. 

    Southgate made a triple change in the 70th minute, and it almost proved fruitful when Ollie Watkins forced another save from Schmeichel.

    But Denmark soon regained control, and Pickford was a spectator as Hojbjerg fired an effort from distance that narrowly evaded the far post, with the spoils ultimately shared.

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    Having arrived in Germany among the tournament favourites, England are still yet to show they have the potential to end their 58-year wait for an international honour. 

    The Three Lions continued their run of having never won their opening two matches at a European Championship tournament, and a disjointed midfield remains a problem for Southgate, with Trent Alexander-Arnold once again replaced early in the second half by Conor Gallagher, and it appears crucial that balance is found sooner rather than later. 

    It was another disappointing performance from Phil Foden, but he showed glimpses of his promise from central areas which will give the England boss another decision to navigate. 

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    Robin Hranac's unavoidable own-goal had earlier cancelled out Lukas Provod's rocketed second-half opener before Conceicao announced himself on the international stage at the Leipzig Stadium.

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    Bruno Fernandes angled a deflected long-range effort narrowly over as the one-way traffic persisted, before the Manchester United midfielder's teasing ball just evaded the lunging Leao.

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    Diogo Jota had a late finish ruled out by VAR after Ronaldo was adjudged offside before his rebounded strike, though Conceicao pounced from Pedro Neto's half-cleared left-wing cross to snatch all three points.

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    Having featured at every Euros since his 2004 debut, Ronaldo is the first to go to six editions of the tournament, where his 14 goals make him the leading scorer in history.

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