Robin van Persie is a doubt for the Netherlands’ World Cup semi-final against Argentina tonight after suffering from stomach problems, manager Louis van Gaal has revealed.
The Manchester United forward trained apart from the rest of the Dutch squad in Sao Paulo yesterday along with defender Daryl Janmaat.
Van Persie was seen intensely discussing the situation with Van Gaal, who instructed him to prepare away from the squad, but the manager remains hopeful the 30-year-old will play.
“Well, he had some stomach problems, some intestinal problems, so it is better not to train as it would get worse,” Van Gaal said.
The coach also laughed off suggestions that there was any disagreement about it, and played down the sight of bandages on Van Persie’s leg.
“I am always really nice,” Van Gaal smiled in his press conference. “Van Persie is our captain so, in that capacity alone, he is very important. In principle, my captain will always play but they have to be in good shape. He only has stomach problems and some plasters on his leg, as he always does.”
It is expected Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will replace Van Persie if he misses out. The Dutch manager did state that midfielder Nigel de Jong could be in line to make a “miracle” comeback, having apparently been ruled out of the World Cup after picking up a groin injury early in the second-round win over Mexico. Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar could also feature, despite suffering a knee injury following the next game against Costa Rica.
Video: Van Gaal on De Jong's fitness
“[De Jong] tried out today and we will have to wait and see how it looks tomorrow because if you want to return to the pitch so quickly you will always have a reaction,” Van Gaal said. “We have to see what they are. If these reactions are good or such that he can play football, that miracle will be taking place.”
Van Gaal refused to discuss how he would deal with Lionel Messi, and seemed reluctant to create a complex around Argentina’s star player.
“We are playing against Argentina,” he said. “We refer to teams and not individual players. We have a plan ready for Argentina and the players. We showed them Argentina this morning and we also trained 11 v nine as there was no other way as Van Persie couldn’t train and Janmaat also had some gastrointestinal issues.
“There are a number of question marks,” Van Gaal said of the opposition. “They use different formations at this World Cup so that would lead to all sorts of different reactions on our part in terms of our formation. I can’t tell fortunes so will have to see with which players they will play, then I will know how to proceed myself.”
Van Gaal did, however, acknowledge the difficulty of stifling Messi.
“At the most important stage, he can always pull it off. In principle, he has found it difficult to show that at a national level. He wants to change that at this tournament and we want to stop him from doing that. That will be quite a challenge.
“It will be a 50-50 match,” Van Gaal added. “We have to be a bit lucky. The coin has to face your way, as we say in Dutch.”