Virgil van Dijk was Netherlands’ hero in their last-gasp Euro 2024 qualifying win over Greece on Monday night, but the Liverpool defender still had one bugbear to get off his chest afterwards.
The Reds captain gave his team a crucial victory with a stoppage time penalty, the result lifting them ahead of their opponents into the second automatic qualification berth in Group B.
However, the 32-year-old wasn’t quite all singing and dancing as he addressed the media after the Oranje’s triumph at the OPAP Arena in Athens.
Regarding the quality of the playing surface, Van Dijk said (via SPORTbible): “Have you seen the pitch? Terrible. It’s unbelievable that this is still allowed at this level.”
This isn’t the first time in recent days that Van Dijk has aired a grievance in public, having also spoken out on the top-heavy workload that footballers at the highest level face in the modern era (The Mirror).
Opposition fans will no doubt try to paint the Liverpool captain as a serial moaner, but just as in the aforementioned instance, he’s making a very fair point in terms of player welfare.
We can only go from TV footage and highlights, but the pitch at the OPAP Arena certainly looked like it left plenty to be desired. Taking the still image below, look at the clumps of grass to the left of Micky van de Ven.
The players of Greece and Netherlands could easily have picked up a nasty injury while running at full speed on such an untidy surface, and one man from either side did have to be substituted due to a knock (Sofascore).
Thankfully Van Dijk and Liverpool get to play on largely pristine pitches in the Premier League. Let’s hope the ground staff in Athens do something to mend the substandard terrain on which a crucial European qualifier was played last night.