The clash between Van Dijk and Mane had been seen as one of the most eagerly anticipated of the group stages of the Qatar World Cup, only for Mane to suffer an injury while playing for Bayern Munich.
Virgil van Dijk reached out to Sadio Mane after the Dutchman’s former Liverpool teammate saw his World Cup dream cruelly ended.
The clash between Van Dijk and Mane had been seen as one of the most eagerly anticipated of the group stages of the Qatar World Cup, only for Mane – who played with Van Dijk for four-and-a-half years at Liverpool, winning the Premier League and the Champions League in that time – to suffer an injury while playing for Bayern Munich.
Van Dijk admits Mane’s absence will make it easier for the Dutch to beat Senegal, but he’s still sad to see him missing.
“Yes I called him [immediately after the injury],” said the Dutch captain, “I wanted to know how he was because there was so many rumours.
“Unfortunately at the time it was not the best news. I feel sad for him, I know how hard he works for this, and he has been important for Senegal.
“He’s obviously a big miss for them, but hopefully we can benefit from that a little.”
“Obviously it is a great shame for Sadio Mane, and a shame for the national team, but we need to think about the health and safety of the player,” he said.
“Obviously it is a great challenge for us. All coaches build their team around their best player.
“We have a strong team of young players who are ready to rise to the challenge.
“It is never easy to play without Sadio, but I think all our players are ready to rise to the challenge.”
On the impact of Mane’s injury on the tournament, he added: “Of course we’re not just talking about the Senegalese people, people all over the world, the whole football family is saddened by what happened to Sadio.
“He is the second best player in the world.
“In the last few weeks I’ve received many calls from people who are sad about what happened to Sadio.”
Senegal winger Krepin Diatta reiterated how tough it will be for his side without their talisman.
“We have to work harder as a team and i’m sure we can get some good results.
“When you talk about the spirit and morale, of course it affects us. He’s our best player, a leader, we’ve have like him here but God decided otherwise.
“But we have a strong menatality, of course it is a big loss, but we will show teamwork and i’m sure we’ll get some good results.”