Van Persie doubtful for La Albiceleste clash

LONDON - Robin van Persie did not train with his team-mates before Wednesday’s match with Argentina due to a stomach bug but Holland’s coach, Louis van Gaal, hinted that his captain would play in the World Cup semi-final regardless.

The Manchester United centre-forward, who battled back from knee and thigh injuries to be fit for the World Cup, has looked laboured in recent games. But Van Gaal said Van Persie would play as long as he could shake off a stomach bug, which also affected the defender Daryl Janmaat.

“He had some stomach problems, some intestinal problems, so it’s better not to train then because you make it worse,” said the Dutch coach, who is likely to switch back to the 5-3-2 shape he favoured against Spain and Chile.

“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.“

Van Persie said all his energy was focused on getting past Argentina and winning Holland’s first ever World Cup.

“It’s a dream to grab hold of that cup,” he said. “Playing against Argentina is not a dream. It doesn’t interest me at all. We just have to win.”

Nigel de Jong, who was expected to be out for the entire tournament after straining a groin muscle against Mexico in the second round, did take part in training. He will be tested on Wednesday morning and, if he has no adverse reaction, could yet make the starting line-up, said Van Gaal.

“He tried out today and we’ll have to wait and see how it looks. If you want to return to the pitch so quickly, you’ll always have a reaction,” he said.

“We’ll have to wait and see what the reactions are tomorrow and, if they are good, then that miracle will be taking place.”

Putting Holland’s chances at “50-50”, he said they would need luck on their side. He advised Dutch parents to let their kids stay up to watch the match, predicting that it might go to penalties.

“They won’t sleep anyway because they will be so stressed and tense,” he said. “The chances are it will be later, because I think Argentina are a notch higher than Costa Rica.”

But Van Gaal refused to buy into the idea that the match would come down to whether they could stop Lionel Messi. “We are playing against Argentina. We always refer to teams and not individual players. We have a plan ready for Argentina,” he said.

But he did pay tribute to Messi’s genius, saying he was voted world footballer of the year in previous seasons for good reason. “If you score so many goals, you have an added value. At the most important stage he can always pull it off,” he said.

“In principle he’s always found it difficult to show that at international level. He wants to do that at this tournament and we want to stop him doing that, so that’s going to be quite a challenge.” - Agencies

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