Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong has admitted he has no idea how to stop his former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi when they take on Argentina in the World Cup quarter-final on Friday.

De Jong was asked by reporters if he had any plan to help his manager Louis van Gaal contain the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, who has been one of the standout performers in Qatar so far.

“Well, no. I know him, but I don’t know how to stop him,” de Jong explained.

“He’s been making the difference for 15 years and there is not one way to stop him. Usually he would still make the difference during training too. We just have to stop him as a team,” he said.

De Jong, who is having a fine tournament himself at the heart of the Dutch midfield, played alongside Messi for two seasons during which they won the Copa del Rey. As for any pleasantries between the two, the 25-year-old has made it clear he will wait until after the game to catch up with the PSG forward.

“We haven’t texted each other. I am not planning to,” he said. “We will see each other on Friday.”

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Messi has found the back of the net twice so far at the World Cup, opening the scoring in the crucial 2-0 group stage win against Mexico and 2-1 victory over Australia in the round of 16.

At 35 years of age, Messi doesn’t have the legs he used to but still causes significant problems for defences whenever he gets on the ball. Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina have been dominating possession in each of their games so far and it should prove to be a fascinating tactical contest.

In contrast, Van Gaal’s Netherlands team sat back in a low block against the USA, allowed their opponents the lion’s share of the ball, absorbed the pressure and then pounced forward on the counter to devastating effect in a 3-1 victory.

The winner of the contest, which kicks off at 7pm GMT at Lusail Stadium, will face either Croatia or Brazil in the semi-final.


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