Virgil van Dijk is on track to be fit for the European Championship later this year, according to Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer.

Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk has been out since a 2-2 draw with Everton in October, when he sustained a serious knee ligament injury following a heavy challenge from Jordan Pickford.

Van Dijk's influence has since been notable in its absence for the Reds, for whom he played an integral role in ending their 30-year wait to win the English top-flight title in 2019-20.

Last season Van Dijk attempted more passes (3,255) than any other defender in the Premier League, while only two other defenders with more than 1,500 had a better completion rate than him (89.2 per cent).

On top of that, Trent Alexander-Arnold (3,664) was the sole defender to have more touches of the ball than Van Dijk (3,624), his 239 duels won was the fifth best among rearguard players and his 191 aerial wins was bettered by only James Tarkowski (199).

Van Dijk has posted a series of videos on social media recently, including one in Dubai where former Netherlands midfielder Clarence Seedorf assisted the defender with his rehabilitation.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp recently said Van Dijk still "has a long way to go" and it is uncertain if he will play for the defending champions in the rest of this campaign.

But De Boer has optimistically claimed the 29-year-old, who captains the Dutch national team, should be contention to play in the delayed Euro 2020 tournament provided he does not suffer any setbacks.

De Boer told De Telegraaf: "If Virgil doesn't get a kick-back and things go a little faster than expected, he should be able to make it for the opening European Championship match on June 13 against Ukraine.

"He is busy with so much energy. If you see what he's doing…In my time you were only allowed to kick in the swimming pool.

"He is very important for our team, on and off the field."

Van Dijk has won 38 caps for the Netherlands since he made his debut in October 2015.

Frank de Boer was happy to end his wait for a first win as coach of the Netherlands in a 3-1 Nations League victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

After replacing Ronald Koeman at the helm, De Boer went four games without a win prior to Sunday's success in Amsterdam.

Georginio Wijnaldum became the first player since Tonny van der Linden in 1961 to score twice in the first 13 minutes of a game for the Netherlands before Memphis Depay made it 3-0, De Boer's men denied a clean sheet by Smail Prevljak.

De Boer was pleased to end his wait for a win, with his side a point behind Italy with one game left to play in Group A1.

"Of course you are waiting for that first victory," he said.

"But we had two interests today. Staying in the race for the final round of the Nations League and we are now in the World Cup qualifying in pot one. That is nice. Pot two also contains good countries, but now we are certainly avoiding the very strong countries."

Wijnaldum's brace gave the Netherlands a dream start before Depay scored his first international goal in 538 minutes of play and after attempting 21 consecutive shots without finding the back of the net.

De Boer said his team had focused on making a fast start, and he was glad it paid off.

"As staff we indicated that we had to give full throttle for the first 20-25 minutes and make a difference," he said.

"This can be done by keeping the pace high. We did a fantastic job."

While pleased with the start, Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum rued the way the Netherlands finished the encounter.

"We were ready for a victory," he told NOS.

"We started well in the first half, but we got a bit sloppier at the end. Maybe we wanted to attack too much, which made the spaces bigger. In the second half it also got a bit sloppier."

The Netherlands wrap up their Group A1 campaign away to Poland on Wednesday.

Georginio Wijnaldum is honoured to have captained the Netherlands in their 1-1 draw with Spain but said he has mixed feelings due to the absence of close friend Virgil van Dijk.

Wijnaldum took over the captain's armband for Wednesday's friendly from injured Liverpool and Netherlands team-mate Van Dijk, who is likely to be out for the rest of the season after sustaining significant damage to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last month.

Stand-in skipper Wijnaldum played 45 minutes in Amsterdam – the upcoming Nations League fixtures against Poland and Ukraine taking priority, and revealed after the match he had been in close contact with Van Dijk ahead of kick-off.

"Of course it is great to represent your country in this way," said Wijnaldum, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Wednesday. "But I would have preferred for Van Dijk to have been here. Then he would have been the captain instead.

"He makes our team stronger and is still very involved with us. I had him on the phone before the game - we talked about my birthday. But I'll call him again shortly."

Donny van de Beek scored his second international goal in as many games early in the second half to earn the Netherlands a draw against a second-string Spain side.

Sergio Canales had earlier given Spain the lead with his maiden goal for the national side and Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer was unhappy with his team's defending in the first half.

"We forgot to cover properly," he said. "I told them about that at the break and we improved on it. The game turned when De Beek and [Luuk] de Jong put their opponents under more pressure, more quickly."

De Boer is winless in four matches since replacing Ronald Koeman as coach but is hopeful that run will come to an end in Sunday's home match against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"Of course I would have liked to have won the game," he said. "Let's go and do that against Bosnia."

Owen Wijndal, 20, was the standout player for the Netherlands on what was just his second senior outing.

The left-back managed more tackles (three) than any home player while nobody turned over possession more times (seven) and intercepted the ball (twice) more often.

"He was fantastic," De Boer said. "He made a very good impression today. He has done a fantastic job and was a lot better than on his debut against Mexico."

Frank de Boer "said bad words" upon seeing Virgil van Dijk suffer a serious injury in action for Liverpool, though he is far more relaxed about Donny van de Beek's situation at Manchester United.

Van Dijk is likely to be out for the rest of the season after sustaining significant damage to his anterior cruciate ligament in last month's Merseyside derby.

The 29-year-old centre-back was on the wrong end of a dreadful challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who remarkably avoided a red card.

Of course, Van Dijk's absence does not only impact Liverpool, it also affects the Netherlands, who could ultimately be without him for next year's delayed European Championship.

"I saw it live. I was shocked. I said some bad words," De Boer said on Tuesday ahead of a friendly against Spain on Wednesday.

"It was a shock, because he's such an important player, our captain, and he's so important in our squad. We will miss him."

De Boer was less concerned about the position Van de Beek finds himself in at United, however.

The midfielder, a pre-season arrival from Ajax, has been a bit-part player for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this term, making only four starts across all competitions – none of those have been in the Premier League, in which he has seen just 75 minutes of action.

De Boer acknowledged that the player has reason for frustration but urged patience.

When asked if he wanted to give the 23-year-old a sympathetic hug, De Boer said: "I can't hug him right now of course! I try to give him as much confidence as possible, which I showed by starting him against Italy.

"I think he did well in the games he played, I saw him a few times at United. He's doing well, but they have a great midfield with [Bruno] Fernandes, [Paul] Pogba, Fred, [Scott] McTominay and [Nemanja] Matic.

"It's difficult, but I'm sure he will play his minutes. I can understand he wants to feature more frequently, but on the other hand, it's always normal that you have to adapt when you go to a new league.

"Let's hope he will get his playing time. I am happy that he's well-rested. We can use him here."

After the international break, Van de Beek will likely target Pogba's position in the United team.

The Frenchman has created just two goalscoring chances in the Premier League this term, only one more than Van de Beek despite playing 298 more minutes than him.

Pogba also has no goals in the top flight – Van de Beek netted his first for the club against Crystal Palace.

Frank de Boer decided to change the Netherlands' system for their Nations League game against Italy after one training session because they looked like "young hyenas".

Italy won the first meeting of the Group A1 rivals in Amsterdam in September 1-0, with interim boss Dwight Lodeweges deploying a 4-2-3-1 on that occasion.

After beginning his Netherlands tenure with a surprise 1-0 loss to Mexico and a goalless draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina, De Boer switched to a 5-3-2 for the meeting in Bergamo in a bid to limit the impact of Italy's attacking full-backs.

Oranje fell behind to Lorenzo Pellegrini's goal in the 16th minute but quickly drew level when Donny van de Beek opened his international account.

Though the Netherlands were unable to find a winner, De Boer knew his team were ready for the new approach after a promising dry run.

"I wanted to play with five at the back so that my forwards didn't have to keep chasing back with their overlapping players," De Boer told NOS.

"Basically, it's just a question of looking very rationally at the opponent and working out what we can offer in return. In this case it meant sacrificing a player like Steven [Berghuis].

"I thought we had the better of the game, say 60 to 40 per cent in our favour, and that was because of our own quality.

"The critics would have been harsh [if the Netherlands lost], but in training I saw how the players chased their prey like young hyenas. I told them: 'If we show this in the game, it shouldn't be a problem.'

"But I am not satisfied with the result, because we want to be top of the group. Now we have to make sure we win the last two games."

The draw meant Poland moved top of Group A1 following a 3-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Italy a point behind and the Netherlands two adrift.

Oranje captain Virgil van Dijk felt the visitors should have done more with their 14 attempts on goal – twice the amount mustered by Italy.

"The coach handled it well. All credit to him for that," said Van Dijk of the change in formation.

"We knew we had to do things differently to the first game. We wanted to get a result and I think a draw here is a good performance to build on.

"We did well and worked hard but we should have got more out of the counter-attack in the second half.

"We created a lot of opportunities against a fantastic team. We could have done more."

Italy extended their unbeaten run in competitive fixtures to 16 – one shy of their all-time record set between June 1997 and June 1999.

Roberto Mancini admitted he was caught off guard by the Netherlands' tactical shift but still has designs on a place in the Nations League Finals.

"It's the first time they changed to this system and it was a surprise, but we knew it was going to be a tough game," Mancini told Rai Sport.

"Opponents are there too, they can create problems and that's what happened this evening. We attacked and I think we created the most clear-cut opportunities, overall.

"The performance was tough, it was a good game, a real battle. Now we go head-to-head with Poland for the top spot. We'll win the next two and then qualify."

Frank de Boer is still waiting for his first goal since taking charge of the Netherlands after his side laboured to a 0-0 Nations League draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Having started his reign with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Mexico in Amsterdam, De Boer - appointed after Ronald Koeman's departure to take charge at Barcelona – saw the Netherlands dominate possession and territory in Zenica. 

However, they lacked a cutting edge as Bosnia-Herzegovina - knocked out of the Euro 2020 play-offs on penalties by Northern Ireland on Thursday – stood firm to earn a point from the Group A1 clash. 

Luuk de Jong – selected in place of the suspended Memphis Depay – came close to a breakthrough, his downward header forcing a superb save from goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic, while Ryan Babel spurned a glorious opportunity in added time.

A draw was hardly a surprise, though. Neither team had managed an attempt on target in a first half that saw plenty of intent but a distinct lack of quality, with the action barely improving after the interval. 

Stefan de Vrij wastefully headed wide from an early free-kick, though the defender make an important impact in his own penalty area later on, producing a well-timed challenge to block Amer Gojak's attempt. 

The Netherlands pinned their opponents in deep for long periods, yet Bosnia-Herzegovina looked the more likely to make a breakthrough as the minutes ticked by.

Edin Dzeko's introduction from the bench made a difference, his run and square pass allowing Miralem Pjanic to take aim with a firm drive that finally forced goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen into a save in the 69th minute.

At the other end, Sehic reacted smartly to prevent Frenkie de Jong's effort, then showed great agility to keep out namesake Luuk from the resulting corner.

The home keeper should have been beaten in the closing stages, though, when a loose ball fell kindly to Babel in the area, only for the substitute to rather sum up the performance by wastefully shooting wide.

Frank De Boer insisted he always wants to win after suffering a 1-0 loss to Mexico in his first match in charge of the Netherlands, but defiantly reminded his critics that he rested key players ahead of his side's forthcoming Nations League fixtures.

Raul Jimenez scored a second-half penalty to settle the friendly at Johan Cruijff Arena on Wednesday, which saw De Boer go head-to-head with Mexico boss Gerardo Martino – who he succeeded as head coach of MLS outfit Atlanta United.

De Boer left Atlanta in July following a poor run of form and his appointment as Ronald Koeman's successor as coach of the Netherlands raised concerns among supporters unimpressed by his record at club level in recent years.

Inter sacked De Boer after he had been in charge for just 85 days in 2016, and the former Netherlands defender lasted just seven games as Crystal Palace boss in the Premier League the following year.

In his international coaching bow, he handed debuts to Owen Wijndal and Teun Koopmeiners, while resting the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Daley Blind ahead of Sunday's clash with Bosnia-Herzegovina and a trip to Italy three days later.

"Of course I have a bad feeling," De Boer told reporters after the game. "I always want to win.

"But we have made certain choices, which I think are logical. We did not let some guys play. We have two more matches soon.

"Moreover, I do not believe that I am the first national coach to lose on his debut."

"The result is unpleasant," added De Boer. "But it was a practice match.

"You could give the excuse that not all the best guys played. We know that someone like Frenkie de Jong is very important, and he was missing. But let's not forget that Teun Koopmeiners played a very good game in the middle."

De Boer, who played for his country as a defender more than 100 times, offered words of support to 20-year-old Wijndal, who made a glaring error in the first half that almost cost the Netherlands.

"He started a bit rough, that's possible," said De Boer. "But I thought it was very good how he fought back."

Opposite number Martino reflected on Mexico's 18th victory in their last 19 matches, claiming the midweek win one was well deserved.

"We played a good game," he said. "We had enough control of the game and we worked very well together.

"It seems to me that the result is fair. At times we pressed well and had the ball. If you work well, you impose your game.

"Today we were a very solid and generous team."

The Netherlands made a losing start to the Frank de Boer era as Mexico ran out 1-0 winners during the new Oranje coach's first game in charge.

There was little for De Boer to enjoy in a largely one-sided friendly at Johan Cruijff Arena, where Tata Martino's high-energy team made it 18 wins from their past 19 matches as Netherlands debuts for Owen Wijndal and Teun Koopmeiners fell flat.

De Boer indicated before the game that he would rather have had extra time to prepare for his side's forthcoming pair of Nations League matches than play a friendly, but he had to watch as the Netherlands were pulled apart at the back repeatedly as Raul Jimenez and Jesus Corona caused them problems.

There were chances at either end, with Memphis Depay lively in the Dutch attack, but a second-half Jimenez penalty after he was fouled by Nathan Ake settled the game and ensured De Boer's tenure started with a whimper.

Mexico exposed frailties in the Dutch defence early on when Hans Hateboer's slow reactions allowed Jesus Gallardo to put Jimenez clean through on goal, but the Wolves forward dragged his shot wide from 12 yards out.

Steven Berghuis' angled drive from close range stung the palms of diving Mexico goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera as the previously sluggish Netherlands began to rally.

But the visitors squandered another fine chance after 34 minutes when Owen Wijndal's scuffed pass allowed Rodolfo Pizarro into the box where he squared to Jimenez, who fired low and wide again.

Tim Krul was called into action 10 minutes into the second half when Corona bore down on goal and the Netherlands keeper parried his low shot away from danger.

Moments later, substitute Nathan Ake was adjudged to have pulled Jimenez's shirt in the box as the referee awarded a penalty that the striker rolled into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Corona should have doubled Mexico's lead 15 minutes from time after his jinking run towards goal and fierce angled drive but Krul got down well to save.

Luuk de Jong had a late chance saved, too, before Memphis Depay hit the bar from the rebound, with neither able to spare De Boer's blushes.

Frank de Boer has named his first squad as Netherlands head coach following his appointment last month, with Daley Blind among those recalled.

Former Ajax, Inter and Atlanta United coach De Boer was named Ronald Koeman's replacement after his departure for Barcelona, taking the reins from interim boss Dwight Lodeweges.

The Oranje play Mexico in a friendly on October 7 and then have Nations League meetings against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Italy.

De Boer claimed at his presentation as coach tthat his group is more talented than Netherlands' 2010 World Cup finalists - when he was on the staff - and he has opted against widescale changes.

Blind is back, though, after being left out in September following a health scare.

The centre-back, who was last year fitted with a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator after being diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation, collapsed in an Ajax friendly in pre-season.

Blind subsequently declared he was "feeling fine", however, and has gone on to start each of Ajax's opening three Eredivisie wins.

Steven Berghuis and Donyell Malen have also returned to the fold, while there is a first senior call-up for AZ captain Teun Koopmeiners.

The Leeds United-linked midfielder made the preliminary squad under Lodeweges but has only now made the final selection.

Perr Schuurs was a new name last month but is not in the latest squad, nor is Leroy Fer.


Netherlands squad in full:

Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Marco Bizot (AZ), Tim Krul (Norwich City); Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Hans Hateboer (Atalanta), Daley Blind (Ajax), Joel Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion), Stefan de Vrij (Inter), Owen Wijndal (AZ); Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Mohamed Ihattaren (PSV), Teun Koopmeiners (AZ), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Kevin Strootman (Marseille), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool); Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Quincy Promes (Ajax), Ryan Babel (Galatasaray), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Steven Bergwijn (Tottenham), Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Donyell Malen (PSV).

Frank de Boer believes he has inherited a Netherlands squad that is even better than the one that reached the World Cup final a decade ago. 

The new Oranje coach, confirmed as Ronald Koeman's successor, was on Bert van Marwijk's coaching staff at the 2010 World Cup when Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder et al made the final, only to be beaten by Spain after extra time. 

The Netherlands missed out on qualification for the previous World Cup in 2018 - having also been absent from Euro 2016 - but De Boer is bullish about the future having signed a two-year contract that will take in next year's delayed European Championship and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

"This selection is perhaps even more talented than that of 2010," De Boer told reporters. 

"I do see similarities with that group. Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben were in top form, we had Rafael van der Vaart and also defensively it was good with the block - Mark van Bommel [and] Nigel de Jong. Very solid, and so does the current selection. There is a lot of potential, especially in terms of width." 

The Netherlands were at a low ebb when Koeman took over in February 2018 but he led them to the Nations League final and guided them to Euro 2020 - a competition that has been postponed until next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Koeman will not be in charge for that having left to take over at Barcelona, though former Ajax, Inter, Crystal Palace and Atlanta United coach De Boer accepts he shares similarities with his predecessor. 

"When the rumours about a possible departure of Koeman to Barcelona came, I had a brief talk with my agent about the Dutch national team, just to see how I might feel about that," De Boer added. 

"I am not Ronald Koeman 2.0, but there are of course some similarities. I do want to follow the path of his method." 

De Boer made 112 appearances for his country and won four straight Eredivisie titles with Ajax at the start of his coaching career. 

However, he has failed to emulate that success in his stops with Inter, Palace and MLS side Atlanta, so his appointment as coach of the national team has raised eyebrows. 

"It doesn't interest me whether I was the first, second or sixth choice for the Oranje, this job is very honourable and if I am asked to do this job, I like to do this job," De Boer said. 

"You always have supporters and opponents and you always hear the opponents loudest. But I think there is also a very large group of people who are very satisfied.  

"I hope that I will not betray the confidence of the KNVB [Royal Dutch Football Association] and the supporters."

Frank de Boer has been appointed as the new Netherlands head coach, the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) confirmed on Wednesday.

Ronald Koeman left his post as national team boss last month to take over at Barcelona following the dismissal of Quique Setien.

De Boer, who made 112 Netherlands appearances and played at two World Cups for his country, has signed a two-year deal that takes him through to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The 50-year-old enjoyed a promising start to his coaching career, leading Ajax to four straight Eredivisie titles between 2011 and 2014.

However, his appointment may come as somewhat of a surprise given a poor track record since departing the Amsterdam club.

An ill-fated 85-day spell as Inter coach was followed by a forgettable 10-week stay in charge of Crystal Palace.

De Boer did win the U.S. Open Cup during an 18-month stint at MLS side Atlanta United but he departed the team two months ago following an indifferent start to the season.

Previously, De Boer worked for the national team as assistant coach to Bert van Marwijk at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where Netherlands were beaten by Spain in the final.

His first assignment comes in the friendly match against Mexico on October 7 before the Nations League double header against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Italy.

Koeman was originally scheduled to remain in the post through Euro 2020 but tournament was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic and he opted not to pass up the chance to take over at Barca.

MLS club Atlanta United have parted company with Frank de Boer by mutual agreement.

Former Ajax and Inter coach De Boer took over at Atlanta in December 2018 following the departure of Gerardo Martino.

De Boer had previously endured a dismal, short-lived spell as Crystal Palace manager, with the Dutchman sacked after taking charge of just four Premier League games.

Atlanta won the US Open Cup and Campeones Cup in De Boer's first season in charge, with the side finishing second in the MLS' Eastern Conference. 

However, following Atlanta's failure to progress in the MLS is Back tournament, the club have made the decision to part ways with De Boer.

"On behalf of Atlanta United, I would like to thank Frank for his leadership and commitment to the club," said Atlanta president Darren Eales.

"Under Frank's guidance, the club had a strong 2019 season in both MLS and international competition. After discussing it with Frank, the decision was reached mutually to part ways. 

"In winning two trophies in his first season in charge, he will always be a part of the club's history, and with great appreciation and respect we wish him all the best in the future."

Jaap Stam secured his first win in charge of FC Cincinnati as Frankie Amaya's long-range goal downed nine-man Atlanta United 1-0 in the MLS is Back Tournament.

The game pitched together two former Netherlands team-mates with Frank de Boer in charge of Atlanta - and it was Stam who prevailed in the head-to-head contest with his compatriot thanks to a 78th-minute strike.

Amaya's goal was worthy of settling the contest too, as he curled home with his left foot from just outside the penalty area.

Atlanta - who have now suffered back-to-back defeats in Group E - were already a man light at that stage, Jake Mulraney receiving two yellow cards inside the opening 26 minutes at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

De Boer then saw substitute J.J. Williams dismissed deep into 13 minutes of additional time for kicking out at Kendall Waston.

Los Angeles FC finally beat rivals LA Galaxy 5-3 in a wild Western Conference semi-final that could have been Zlatan Ibrahimovic's last game in MLS.

Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of the season and the former AC Milan, Inter and Juventus striker has been linked with a January return to Serie A via Napoli, Bologna and the Nerazzurri.

Amid the uncertainty over his future, Ibrahimovic was unable to prolong the Galaxy's season as LAFC prevailed in an eight-goal thriller to advance to the Conference final on Thursday.

Supporters' Shield winners LAFC had never beaten the Galaxy in five previous fixtures but they quickly moved to end that drought thanks to Carlos Vela's first-half brace at Banc of California Stadium.

LAFC captain Vela broke the deadlock in the El Trafico derby, cutting inside onto his right foot and firing a low shot past Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham in the 16th minute.

Vela doubled the lead in the 40th minute, when he was on hand to side-foot into an empty net after Brian Rodriguez's selfless pass, before Ibrahimovic teed up Cristian Pavon a minute later.

Ibrahimovic put the visiting Galaxy on level terms 10 minutes into the second half but their joy quickly turned to despair as quick-fire goals from Diego Rossi and Adama Diomande restored LAFC's two-goal advantage with 22 minutes remaining.

Rolf Feltscher set up a frenetic finale by reducing the deficit to 4-3 in the 77th minute, however Diomande's stunning solo effort ended the Galaxy's hopes within three minutes.

Bob Bradley's LAFC will now meet Seattle Sounders for a spot in the MLS Cup final.

In the day's other match, defending champions Atlanta United accounted for Philadelphia Union 2-0.

Julian Gressel and Josef Martinez saw Frank de Boer's Atlanta advance and earn an Eastern Conference final date with Toronto.

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