Virgil van Dijk Says 'Great' Portugal Team Are 'Not Only Cristiano Ronaldo'

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2019

GUIMARAES, PORTUGAL - JUNE 06: Virgil van Dijk of Netherlands in action during the UEFA Nations League Semi-Final match between the Netherlands and England at Estadio D. Afonso Henriques on June 06, 2019 in Guimaraes, Portugal. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Netherlands defender Virgil van Dijk has warned his team-mates not to focus solely on the threat of Cristiano Ronaldo when his side face Portugal in the UEFA Nations League final on Sunday. 

The Dutch made it to the showpiece of the inaugural competition on Thursday, as they came from behind against England to win 3-1 after extra time. They will now be seeking to win the competition against the host nation.

If they are to be victorious, the Dutch will need to find a way to limit the influence of Ronaldo, who scored a brilliant hat-trick against Switzerland in Portugal's semi-final success. However, Van Dijk has said the Oranje must be wary of other threats their opponents possess, per Dejan Kalinic of Goal.

"We'll see," he said. "It's not only Cristiano Ronaldo we're going to face. We face a great Portugal. We will see what's going to happen. I'm looking forward to playing this final with this team, and we're going to give everything that we can to hopefully hold that trophy in the end and do everyone proud."

The match will be intriguing for a number of reasons, although the battle between Ronaldo and Van Dijk—arguably the best centre-forward and best defender in the game, respectively—will be a fascinating subplot:

B/R Football @brfootball

Come and get it. https://t.co/06S9xxXffo

While a number of players in the two semi-finals appeared a little jaded at the end of a long season, Ronaldo was incredibly sharp in the win over Switzerland. 

He opened the scoring with a fantastic free-kick and then rounded off his hat-trick in trademark style in the second half:

Sky Sports Football @SkyFootball

GOAL FOR PORTUGAL 🇵🇹 It's that man again, Cristiano Ronaldo. He strikes it clean and hard, comfortably beating Sommer. Watch live on Sky Sports Main Event or follow online here: https://t.co/UwAsrMqaoN https://t.co/kRRfH06S6v

Sky Sports Football @SkyFootball

HATTRICK FOR RONALDO! What a performance, he's unstoppable. Seconds after he's scored his second, he's notched a third. As clinical as they come! Watch live on Sky Sports Main Event or follow here: https://t.co/UwAsrMqaoN https://t.co/JxOOPO3dJT

In recent years, Ronaldo has has adapted his game to become more of a penalty-box player, but for Portugal he seems to have more freedom under manager Fernando Santos.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how the Dutch look to combat the Juventus star, as he roamed across the front line in the win over Switzerland. As a result, there may be spells in the game when Van Dijk and his defensive partner Matthijs de Ligt aren't directly up against the 34-year-old.

As Van Dijk notes, there are other quality operators in the Portugal team, with Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes all in the starting XI against the Swiss. 

But as ESPN FC's Liam Twomey noted, those stars struggled to stamp their authority on the game in the semi-final:

Liam Twomey @liam_twomey

Why do Portugal always seem incapable of controlling matches despite having some of the best midfield talent in international football?

In Van Dijk, the Netherlands have a player who is at the peak of his powers, having shone for Liverpool in their successful UEFA Champions League push. For his country, Van Dijk has developed into a tremendous leader since being handed the captain's armband too.

With talismanic figures in exceptional form on both sides, Sunday's final is set to be a treat. For Van Dijk, getting the better of Ronaldo in a high-profile game would be a fitting way to cap an exceptional season.