Could it be soccer’s version of the Flu Game?
Dutch players were given the day off on Thursday — two days before they face the U.S. in the knockout stage of the World Cup — as the Netherlands squad deals with a “worrying” influenza outbreak.
“I gave them a day of rest,” coach Louis van Gaal said Friday. “With this group, they communicate that to me. I listen to my players.”
The team returned to practice Friday.
The “flu symptoms” — believed to be caused by high air-conditioning at the team’s base — caused van Gaal to skip La Oranje’s usual 11-on-11 training match, in which the reserves act as a scout team of sorts, a significant departure from Dutch protocols heading into a match.
The coach refused to elaborate on his team’s condition, but added that, “if it goes around in the group, it is worrying.”
Netherlands, winners of 18 straight, will face a USMNT that needed a 1-0 win over Iran in its final group stage game to advance to the round of 16. The player responsible for the goal, 24-year-old Christian Pulisic, was cleared to play after sustaining a pelvic bruise on the play.
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“I will do everything in my power to work with this medical team and make sure that I can play,” he said.
Pulisic was hospitalized after the injury, but was able to join his teammates as they returned to their hotel for a raucous greeting.
“At this stage, it’s go time,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said of his star. “If you can push through it, you do. So I’m sure he’ll have that mindset.”
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