Sports

June 16, 2024

Euro 2024: Netherlands skipper Van Dijk slams poor state of pitch ahead of Poland clash

Euro 2024: Netherlands skipper Van Dijk slams poor state of pitch ahead of Poland clash

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on June 14, 2024 shows Poland’s goalkeeper #01 Wojciech Szczesny (L) shooting the ball during the international friendly football match between Poland and Turkey in Warsaw on June 10, 2024; and Netherlands’ defender #04 Virgil van Dijk controlling the ball during the friendly football match between Germany and Netherlands in Frankfurt on March 26, 2024. – Poland will face Netherlands during the UEFA Euro 2024 Football Championship on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER and Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP)

Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk says the poor state of the pitch at the Volksparkstadion ahead of his side’s Euro 2024 opener against Poland on Sunday is “a shame”.

Both Netherlands and Poland have expressed concerns about the turf and neither side held their last pre-match training session at the stadium in Hamburg.

“We don’t know exactly yet whether the pitch is very bad,” Van Dijk told a press conference on Saturday, saying it was similar to the pitch used for a Netherlands friendly against Germany in Frankfurt in March.

“It looks like the pitch is the same as for the match in Frankfurt when we played against Germany.

“The top layer will probably loosen quickly. That is of course a shame, but both teams will have to deal with it.”

The Netherlands held their final training at their team base in Wolfsburg before making the trip to Hamburg.

“We have chosen to do the last training in Wolfsburg,” said coach Ronald Koeman.

“We believe that you can do much more towards a match than when you train in the stadium.

“But in the end we should not have trained here anyway because of the turf.”

Koeman is expected to start RB Leipzig winger Xavi Simons and leave out Jeremie Frimpong who starred for Bayer Leverkusen during their historic Bundesliga and German Cup-winning campaign.

Both players are in good form, with a goal apiece across the two 4-0 warm-up wins over Canada and Iceland.

“He is one of the greatest talents we currently have in the Netherlands,” Koeman said of Simons.

“He has already played in many matches as a starter at an early age. He is developing and for a young player there are always ups and downs, especially with a national team.

“But we are confident that he will play a very good European Championship.”

The 21-year-old Simons has only netted once in 14 international appearances — against Iceland earlier this week — but Van Dijk is also confident the youngster will deliver.

“He can give so much more than he does now. He can do much better,” said the Liverpool defender.

“He has the right mentality, so I’m not worried about that not happening. This will be a big tournament for him and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

The Dutch will be hoping to make a strong start to Group D, with a game against tournament favourites France to follow next Friday before facing Austria on June 25.

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