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Van Dijk: Qatar 2019 will be a great experience

There is no doubt that Virgil van Dijk is the best defender in the world right now. The imposing Dutchman was runner-up to Lionel Messi at The Best FIFA Men’s Player earlier this year, and as a result has become used to rubbing shoulders with the world’s greatest at the upper echelons of the game.

Van Dijk has yet to test himself on the global stage for his country though. The Liverpool man made his senior international debut in October 2015, and with the Oranje missing out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, he has not graced the biggest stage at international level.

For the former Celtic and Southampton defender, the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019 not only serves to whet the appetite for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – it also gives him a chance to shine in a global setting for the very first time.

“For me personally, it’s something new,” Van Dijk told in an exclusive interview. “And I think for almost everyone in our team [at Liverpool] it’s something new. I think this squad can be the first Liverpool side to win the Club World Cup. It’ll be a great experience. We’re all looking forward to going out there and hopefully get that trophy as well.”

Jurgen Klopp’s side will open their Qatar 2019 campaign on Wednesday 18 December, and their opponents could be drawn from one of three confederations: AFC (Al-Sadd Sports Club), OFC (Hienghene Sport) or Concacaf (Monterrey). The opportunity to face a side from another continent intrigues Van Dijk.

“It will be a big challenge, it will be something that we haven’t experienced before,” he said. “We’re at the stage right now where we have the experience of playing international football [with our national teams]. We have players who’ve played all over the world anyway. It’s going to be a totally different challenge for us but it’s something that we’re definitely looking forward to.”

The Reds will no doubt watch the opening games with heightened interest – with Al-Sadd Sports Club facing Hienghene Sport on 11 December in the tournament opener, and the winner of that game facing Monterrey on 14 December for a chance to play Liverpool in the semi-final.

Whoever they face, an exciting new frontier awaits Van Dijk and his team-mates in Qatar.

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