Matthijs de Ligt has no issues with being left out of Louis van Gaal’s starting line-up for the Netherlands’ past three games as he “expected to play nothing” at this World Cup.
De Ligt came on as a 93rd-minute substitute in the Netherlands’ 3-1 win over the United States in Saturday’s last-16 encounter.
That marked the 23-year-old’s first appearance for the Oranje since starting in their World Cup opener, the 2-0 win over Senegal, having been demoted to the bench by Van Gaal for the ensuing three games.
“It’s not so frustrating, honestly,” De Ligt told The Athletic. “Every player wants to play but we are a group of 26 players.
“Honestly, I have played more than I expected to play at this World Cup. I expected to play nothing. I’m quite okay. We won together and we are in a quarter-final.”
The defender, who has established himself at Bayern Munich since his off-season switch from Juventus, has seen Ajax 21-year-old Jurrien Timber take his place alongside Nathan Ake and Virgil van Dijk in Van Gaal’s back three.
“No, it’s just the way of playing,” De Ligt replied when asked if injury was behind his non-selection. “Maybe the coach doesn’t put me in the team and I am okay with that. I expected it.
“So for me it’s fine. I know my role and I train hard every day to be important for the team.”
In this team we trust.
— OnsOranje (@OnsOranje)
Meanwhile, Van Dijk backed 23-year-old Netherlands team-mate Cody Gakpo to take the next step in his career.
Gakpo, who scored in all three of the Dutch’s World Cup group-stage wins, has been linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
“Are Manchester United and Real Madrid the same level at this moment? No disrespect, not at all,” Liverpool defender Van Dijk told The Athletic.
“I think he definitely has a next step in him. I definitely feel like it could happen. Whether it happens in the winter or next year, time will tell.
“But he’s a great boy. Works hard, is very talented and there’s definitely more in him. We are very pleased he’s doing so well and long may it continue.”
Gakpo would not be drawn on his future after the win over USA, while United defender Tyrell Malacia backed him to step up should an opportunity arise.
“He’s good enough for the top, there’s no doubt,” Malacia said.