Van Dijk will not be holding back at Liverpool to preserve himself for World Cup 2022

Dutchman looking forward to Qatar finals but insists he is maintaining same intensity for club and nation

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If any Liverpool player could be forgiven for keeping one eye on the upcoming World Cup during the early stages of this season, it would surely be Virgil van Dijk.

Only last summer, the Dutchman missed out on what would have been the first major tournament appearance of his career as a result of a serious knee injury suffered at Everton the previous October.

He was, in fact, fit enough to have made an appearance at those delayed Euros, but chose to stay home in order not to run the risk of a setback in his rehabilitation.

And that decision was rewarded with a return to his imperious best as Liverpool took a quadruple charge to the final weeks of the last campaign.

Clearly, the fact that a mid-season World Cup awaited just 18 months later played a big part in convincing Van Dijk to take a patient approach to his international ambitions.

So, with that long-term goal now agonisingly close to being realised, it is only fair to ask if the defender’s focus on club matters might be affected.

However, the man himself has now emphatically insisted that is not the case, and said: “If you think about this I think you are going to have issues in my opinion. It is just game-by-game and that includes international football.

“[Beating Ajax] was a big one for us, now I and certain players have internationals and other players will train and play friendlies in order to stay fit and get fit and we will get players back after the internationals.

“For me it is two games against Poland and Belgium and then it is Brighton so that will be the focus. I'm not focusing on what is happening in November.”

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The end of this latest international break will mark the start of a six-week countdown to the 2022 World Cup, a period in which players are sure to face further accusations of playing within themselves in order to avoid missing out.

That will be nothing new for Van Dijk, whose personal injury history and talismanic status in Jurgen Klopp’s team have seen him singled out for criticism during what has been a mixed start to the new season for the collective.

The 31-year-old is adamant, though, that he wants to be in the best possible condition heading to Qatar, and believes he can only achieve that aim by giving his all in every game.

“Not at all, not at all. I can assure you that is definitely not the case,” he said of claims he might prioritise avoiding injury in the coming weeks.

“Obviously I am very excited to lead the boys out there and do as good as we can but we are not in the situation because of that.

“I would understand because of the start we had everyone is looking for 'Why?' because the difference is too big, but I can assure you that is definitely not one of the reasons.

“You focus on the game at the time and that's definitely what we're doing. I can only speak for myself and I wouldn't worry about me.

“I want to go but to be ready, in my opinion, is not to focus on hopefully not getting injured, it is just keep playing, get fit, stay fit and get in a good moment and I think today we had a good step and hopefully we can carry that on after the internationals."

Updated: September 28, 2022, 8:48 AM
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