Van Dijk 'sad' for Mane as Netherlands prepare for Senegal World Cup test

Netherlands star Virgil van Dijk said he was sad to learn that former Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane would miss the World Cup due to injury, even if it will boost Dutch hopes.

The defender was due to come up against Mane when the Netherlands face Senegal in their opening Group A match on Monday but the Bayern Munich forward is out of the tournament after suffering a leg injury playing for his club.

"I called him the next day and obviously I wanted to know how he was," Van Dijk said at his team's pre-match press conference in Doha.

"There were so many rumours coming out. As a friend I wanted to know how he was. It wasn't the best news he has had and unfortunately he won't be able to make this tournament."

Van Dijk and Mane played together at Southampton before being reunited at Anfield, winning the Premier League title and the Champions League together under Jurgen Klopp.

Mane left Liverpool earlier this year for a fresh start at Bayern.

"I feel sad for him," Van Dijk added. "I know how hard he worked for this and he has been important for Senegal so he is going to be a big miss for them.

"But hopefully we can benefit a little from that as well."

Monday's match at the Al Thumama Stadium in the Qatari capital marks the Netherlands' return to the World Cup after they failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, who is back in charge after taking the team to third place in 2014, pointed out that his side are also handicapped by the absence of Memphis Depay.

The Barcelona forward, 28, who has scored 42 goals in 81 games for his country, including 12 in qualifying for the Qatar World Cup, has not played since September.

"This is the match that sets the tone for the rest of the tournament and Senegal are the African champions so they are not just any old opponent," said Van Gaal.

"I think that Mane is an extraordinary player. I wanted him at Manchester United, when he was still at Southampton, so I am a fan of Mane.

"He can break open a match and I would say that Senegal will really miss him, but the same applies to us. We will really miss our top scorer."

as/jw