Van Dijk 'enjoying the moment' ahead of crucial month for Liverpool

By Sports Desk April 04, 2022

Virgil van Dijk insists he is "just enjoying the moment" ahead of a run of games that could define Liverpool's season.

The Reds remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, having already won the EFL Cup, as they are into the last four of the FA Cup, the last eight of the Champions League and just a point behind Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title.

Ahead of the Champions League quarter-final first leg away at Benfica on Tuesday, Van Dijk told reporters he is calm about the upcoming period, and is pleased that Liverpool currently have a full squad to use across the three remaining competitions.

"If you would say at the start of the season that you will still be in all competitions by this time of the year, also having a full squad, which last season wasn't really the case, we would have taken it easily," he said.

"I'm just enjoying the moment. We all as footballers want to play games – it asks a lot physically from us, but I'm just going for it and enjoying every moment."

Van Dijk missed most of last season with a knee injury, but has been a near ever-present since his return for Jurgen Klopp's men, making 39 appearances in all competitions so far this campaign, with 24 clean sheets to his name. 

Liverpool have conceded just three goals in their last 13 games in all competitions, and the 30-year-old was asked if he feels the defensive side of their game sometimes goes unnoticed.

"I must say, before the [January] international break, I did care a little bit," he said. "I think I said it in [another] interview, I felt a bit taken for granted, coming back from a long-term injury, that everything was normal, everyone expected the same [level of performance], and it's quite difficult.

"But after the break, I really didn't. Maybe that helped also the performances, but at the moment we're just doing it together. Everyone is playing their part, everyone is involved, the back four plus Alisson changes at times as well. If you look at the [EFL] cup final, with Caoimhin [Kelleher] coming in, the hero in the cup competitions.

"Kostas [Tsimikas] coming in, Joe [Gomez] coming in now as well, everyone is getting involved in the success we have as a defensive unit, but the way we defend is we do it all together, and everyone feels responsibility for that as well."

Questions have been asked of Liverpool's high line in recent weeks, despite the impressive defensive record, and Van Dijk was keen to question why, believing people are forgetting to discount opportunities against them that would have been given offside had a goal been scored.

"It's now being highlighted, but I think if you look back at the last couple of seasons we always try to play with a high line," he said.

"This season, and last season I think, we started with the rule that [we] keep playing on, and then the linesman puts the flag up. It looks like we are conceding chances against us.

"Even the other day [against Watford] when Ali had to make the save, it looked like we are vulnerable when he is offside, so I think that rule first of all has to get out of the way, but the other thing is the high line, we don't speak about it a lot but on the pitch you definitely have to communicate and I'm always trying to do that."

No team has caught opposition players offside in the Premier League as often this season, with Opta stats showing the Reds have successfully caught players offside on 124 occasions, well ahead of City (76), Wolves (70), Leicester City (62) and Brentford (59).

The Netherlands captain also had words of encouragement for his national team boss Louis van Gaal, who revealed on Dutch TV on Sunday he is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

"I was in shock last night when I heard his interview, because obviously he is getting his film out next week so I was just wondering how he would promote it and speak about his life, and then obviously this was a big shock," he added.

"I messaged him after the interview, but it definitely says a lot about him [as a person]... He's not the type of guy that needs a lot of sympathy, that's how he is, but I told him we are definitely going to be there for him as a group whenever needed, and also we can also hopefully make it for him a World Cup to never forget."

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    Otto Addo insists Ghana took no comfort from seeing rivals Uruguay join them in making an early exit from the World Cup after Friday's dramatic Group H finale.

    Ghana and Uruguay both harboured hopes of reaching the last 16 ahead of Friday's game, which represented the teams' first meeting since La Celeste claimed a famous World Cup quarter-final win in 2010, when Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty after Luis Suarez saw red for a goal-line handball.

    Giorgian de Arrascaeta's brace helped Uruguay to a 2-0 victory, but South Korea's last-gasp 2-1 win over Portugal in the group's other game ensured Paulo Bento's team clinched second place.

    After the match, Daniel Amartey suggested to reporters that Ghana became determined to take Uruguay out of the tournament with them once South Korea went ahead. 

    Addo, however, insisted any animosity between the teams did not influence Ghana's approach, saying: "I don't know who said it, but nobody told them what the [South Korea] score was.

    "I don't know how they would know. For us, it was about trying to score. As a coach for more than 12 years, I have had games where we led 3-0 and lost 4-3. Anything can happen. 

    "I don't think anyone was thinking about this, but I definitely wasn't. Everyone saw wild games with goals in the last minutes. We just wanted to equalise, which would have gotten us through."

    Asked whether his players were motivated by a desire to avenge the 2010 defeat, Addo responded: "What hurts the most is that we're out. 

    "I know the public sought revenge but I don't think this way, and I told the players they should not as well. 

    "I am a strong believer that if you do not seek revenge, you will get more blessings. If it was not Uruguay, we would have tried against another team. 

    "It was not important. We were prepared, but today the luck was not on our side. We could have prevented both goals, this is where we have to learn.

    "Sometimes you are so close to taking one step further, but then you concede and it gets into your mind. To come back out of this is very difficult. 

    "We did it against South Korea but today we couldn't do it, the second goal came way too early. 

    "We created a lot of chances, at the end we could have conceded a third goal. I believed until the end that we could score."

    While Ghana have failed to progress beyond the group stage at their last two World Cups (2014 and 2022), Uruguay have fallen at the first hurdle for the first time since doing so in 2002.

  • Ronaldo insists there is no controversy over substitution in South Korea loss Ronaldo insists there is no controversy over substitution in South Korea loss

    Cristiano Ronaldo appeared dissatisfied when he was substituted in Portugal's World Cup defeat to South Korea, though he indicated it had more do with the actions of an opponent than Fernando Santos' decision.

    Ronaldo was withdrawn in the 65th minute and replaced by Andre Silva with the scores level at 1-1 in the Group H finale.

    Hwang Hee-chan's injury-time winner gave South Korea a 2-1 win to seal their progression to the last 16 alongside Portugal.

    With Ronaldo having long since exited the stage, Portugal were unable to rescue anything from the game, with the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star urging his team-mates to learn from their poor performance.

    He said of his reaction while leaving the field: "What happened was that before my departure, [a] Korean player told me to leave quickly. I told him to shut up.

    "He is not the authority, he does not have to give his opinion, he would speed up the step if he were the referee. But there doesn't have to be any controversy.

    "It's the heat of the game. Regardless of what happened, things stay on the field. We have to be united, we are in the next phase. All Portuguese have to be confident because we really want to progress.

    "We knew in advance that we were qualified, there had to be almost a miracle for us not to progress [in] first. But I don't want to justify myself with that.

    "We have to learn from these lessons when we don't play well. I hope we can learn from this defeat and we have to win the next game."

    Santos added of Portugal's showing: "It's a disappointment. We did good things, but then we alternated with the least good. But it can be a warning. It can be a warning."

    Portugal will face the runners-up of Group G in the last 16 next Tuesday.

  • Addo predicts bright future for Ghana but steps down following World Cup exit Addo predicts bright future for Ghana but steps down following World Cup exit

    Otto Addo confirmed he is leaving his role as Ghana coach as he predicted the team will continue to improve after a promising World Cup campaign.

    Addo was appointed as interim boss of the Black Stars in February, but has been juggling the role with his job as a talent coach for Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.

    Ghana would have progressed to the last 16 of the World Cup in Qatar with a win over Uruguay at Al Janoub Stadium on Friday, but ultimately finished bottom of Group H after a 2-0 defeat.

    Andre Ayew missed a first-half penalty, with Giorgian de Arrascaeta's quickfire double putting Uruguay in control, albeit the win was not enough to send Diego Alonso's team into the knockout round.

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    "When I started as an assistant coach in October last year, it was clear I would stop after the World Cup," he said.

    "At the moment, me and my family see our future in Germany, I like my role at Dortmund, we are very happy there.

    "I would be leaving even if we were world champions, this is a decision for the family. This is my decision."

    Ghana's squad was the youngest at the tournament, and Addo sees a bright future for the team.

    He said: "This is football, sometimes football is beautiful, sometimes really ugly, unfortunately for us it was not a happy day.

    "There's not one player who has not missed a penalty, their goalkeeper was really good today.

    "We had a lot of chances, but had to do better in defence. Allowing two chances against world-class strikers is two too much. We have a young squad, have to learn, sure it has a bright future.

    "We have to believe in ourselves. The greatest players are great because they have experience. That comes from doing things wrong. 

    "They have to work on all of these things. They will grow from this experience and will do better next time."

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