Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk has been backed by legendary Dutch defender Jaap Stam after criticism in his homeland during the World Cup.
Dutch hero Marco van Basten recently slammed Van Dijk for his performance in the 1-1 draw with Ecuador, forcing the Liverpool defender out and defending.
“He doesn’t take the lead,” Van Basten said. “He doesn’t take care of anything in the team. He makes a sound, but he says nothing. That’s what he does.”
The Oranje cruised through Group A regardless, thanks to victories over Senegal and Qatar, setting up a round of 16 clash with the United States on Saturday.
Former Manchester United centre-back Stam, who won 67 caps for the Netherlands, believes Van Dijk’s criticism has been unfair.
“Every former manager has his opinion on the players. I saw the game and the comments Van Basten made about Van Dijk afterwards,” Stam told talkSPORT via BoyleSports Football Betting.
“He wanted Virgil to have more influence on the pitch, on the ball and as a leader, taking more initiative.
“You have to look at the game, the opposition and the way the game is set up. Virgil, as the center of the three, it’s not always easy for him to step in and dribble because the spaces are very reduced.
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“But Van Basten expects Van Dijk to step in and take the initiative, rather than just playing the ball left or right.
“As a centre-back, that’s the only thing you can do. You can’t do anything more. Those to your left and to your right are the ones who have time and space because they are not under pressure.
“So I don’t always agree with Van Basten’s comments. But you can understand why people expect a lot from him and you want him to have a big influence, especially when the team isn’t paying well.
“You have to do it by being very vocal and putting players in better positions, so at the end of the day you can play better football. Maybe he can do it a bit better.
“But that’s the difficulty of being outside. You don’t know what the manager’s game plan is.
Nevertheless, Stam admits the Netherlands were disappointed with their football in Qatar.
Louis van Gaal’s side topped a favorable group, but it didn’t look pretty.
Stam added: “To be honest with the way they played, they didn’t play very good football. They won their games but not by being dominant like we would have liked to see.
“In terms of fluidity and combined football, they didn’t. It was a bit disappointing.
“But I know that in these tournaments it’s about results, taking the next step and hopefully playing more quality football. That’s what happens when you play against better teams.
“We expected a bit more quality football. But I participated in these tournaments, when you take the last game against Qatar, when you lead 2-0, the players don’t spend too much energy and that’s how it is.
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