Virgil van Dijk knocks Leandro Paredes to the floor after the Argentina midfielder kicked the ball at the Netherlands bench

Virgil van Dijk knocks Leandro Paredes to the floor after the Argentina midfielder kicked the ball at the Netherlands bench. Great photo by Matthias Hangst.

Lionel Messi has previously spoken of his admiration for Virgil van Dijk ahead of Argentina’s World Cup quarter-final clash against the Netherlands.

Messi scored the opener in his side’s Round of 16 victory over Australia to continue his fine form at the World Cup – where he has now scored three goals in four appearances – as he spearheaded his nation through to the last eight, where they will face Louis van Gaal’s side.

In the group stages, the 35-year-old attacker found the net in Argentina’s shock opening-match loss against Saudi Arabia and also netted in a vital victory for Lionel Scaloni’s side against Mexico, and while he did not find the net against Poland, he played an important role in his side’s two-goal win.

Yet their last eight opponents will prove to be, by a distance, Argentina’s toughest test to date at the World Cup. They are facing a Netherlands side who are unbeaten throughout the tournament and made relatively light work of the US in the Round of 16, winning 3-1.

There are no shortage of storylines ahead of the game with Van Gaal’s final game in management likely to coincide with the Netherlands ending their campaign, while Messi is playing in what is almost certainly his final World Cup tournament.

Messi and his international teammates will have to break down a Dutch defence that has conceded just two goals across their four World Cup matches to date and have shown their ability to win matches with tactical tweaks and setting up to nullify the threat of their opposition.

Not one to shy away from a meaty challenge, Paredes slid in with a hefty challenge on the Manchester City man, leaving him sprawled on the floor.

But Paredes wasn’t finished there as he blasted the loose ball straight at the Dutch dugout following the referee’s whistle for a free-kick.

“Well sort this one out,” Stuart Pearce told talkSPORT. “The challenge was poor. Van Dijk arrived and his sheer size floored him.”

However after 10 minutes of added time, Weghorst struck again to send the fiery encounter into extra-time.

Van Dijk then missed the Dutch side’s first spot-kick leaving Paredes to have the last laugh as Argentina won 4-3 on penalties.

That same year, Messi waxed lyrical about Van Dijk in an interview with Marca, saying: “He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge or jockey [the attacker]. He is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for his height.

The World Cup quarter-final between Holland and Argentina descended into chaos on Friday night when Leandro Paredes sparked a brawl on the pitch.

It came after the Juventus midfielder flew into a robust challenge on Nathan Ake before he followed up by booting the ball towards the Dutch substitutes bench, at which point players from all sides rushed around him.

Van Dijk and Steven Berguis missed from 12 yards before Lautaro Martinez scored the winning penalty to set up a semi-final with Croatia.

Lionel Scaloni’s side had previously looked to be in a comfortable position, as a goal and an assist for Lionel Messi put them 2-0 up before Weghorst’s first goal in the 83rd minute.

There was another clash between players after full time, with Nicolas Otamendi handed the 12th yellow card of the game. Fans seemed particularly frustrated with referee Mateu Lahoz, who issued 14 yellow cards, with one labelling him the ‘worst I’ve seen at a World Cup.’

Others labelled him ‘disgraceful’ an ‘terrible’ as the game broke down over the heated incident.

There were also tense scenes after the shootout had concluded with the Argentina players celebrating right in front of their opponents.

Players and staff from both sides were embroiled in a melee but it was quickly dispersed before Argentina went on to celebrate their win with their supporters.

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