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'It's not possible to play dirty anymore' - Koeman points to VAR after Rice's De Jong comments

22:28 GMT+4 05/06/2019
Ronald Koeman Netherlands
The midfielder promised to get rough when he comes up against the Barcelona-bound midfielder but the Netherlands boss feels his tactic may backfire

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman says he is not concerned by England midfielder Declan Rice's promise to play dirty when the two sides meet in the Nations League semi-final.

The clash in Portugal on Thursday could put West Ham star Rice in direct opposition to Ajax star Frenkie de Jong, who has been labelled one of Europe's most promising midfielders and will join Barcelona this summer.

Rice vowed to get "dirty, up in his face and try and disrupt him from playing his game" when he takes on De Jong, but Koeman is sure the Dutch team can cope with England's aggression and says VAR will stop them going too far.

"[Playing dirty] is not possible aymore, we have VAR," Koeman said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

"But we also have players who can stand up to that. Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt for example. The best centre-back pairing in the world? One of the best, I think. But you have to look at the total picture.

"With Virgil, I look at the total picture. In training sessions or off the field, how he ensures that there is a mutual respect. That the atmosphere is good. That everyone is on time. He is working on that.

"Daley Blind, Georginio Wijnaldum and Kevin Strootman too. They are examples of how you should behave as a top player. 

"The Nations League is starting to liven up, I might not have expected that when we started it. We feel it is about something. That's good to see."

While Van Dijk lifted the Champions League crown with Liverpool last week, 19-year-old Ajax captain De Ligt is expected to make a big money move this summer with the likes of Barcelona and Juventus courting his signature.

And Koeman expects Van Dijk to add to his collection of winners' medals, while he hopes De Ligt makes the right choice over his future.

“We are really happy that we have these kinds of defenders in the national team," he said. "One is only 19, he needs to make a good decision for his future but he will do that and he is progressing well.

"Of course Virgil is a bit more experienced, he won his first big title. I think you need to win big titles to really become a star.

"Matthijs had a great season in the Champions League and will choose what is best for his future."

He added: "I spoke to Matthijs a week ago about his future and that’s secret. What I told all the young players thinking about making a step, the most important thing is to keep playing, keep getting minutes to develop your football. The way the club is playing matters. He, his family and his agent can help make the best decision."