De Jong's SWC may be over
Nigel de Jong (AFP)
Rio de Janeiro - Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong's World Cup appears to be over after tests confirmed he has a tear in his groin muscle and will be sidelined for two to four weeks.
The Dutch football association said Tuesday that an MRI scan revealed the injury, almost certainly ruling one of the Dutch team's top performers out of the tournament.
The 29-year-old AC Milan midfielder limped off the field in the ninth minute of the Netherlands' 2-1 comeback win over Mexico on Sunday in the second round. After the match, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said the injury looked serious and that De Jong's absence would be a "blood-letting" for the team.
In his first reaction, De Jong tweeted: "Devastated with the news about my injury. Sadly enough this is part of the sport as well. Will work hard on my recovery now and keep hope."
De Jong had been in outstanding form in Brazil, dominating the midfield with tough, well-timed tackles and helping create a platform for the front pair of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben.
The tournament in Brazil was something of a rehabilitation of the reputation of a player remembered by most for his crunching, chest-high tackle on Xabi Alonso in the World Cup final four years ago, an incident that earned him a yellow card.
The former Manchester City, Hamburg and Ajax player also was dropped from the Dutch team later in 2010 after a tackle in the Premier League left Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa with a broken leg.
But he has an unblemished disciplinary record in Brazil and Van Gaal singled him out for praise — something the coach rarely does to any of his players — after the gritty 3-2 win over Australia in the group stage.
"I never like to put individual players in the spotlight," Van Gaal said. "But the way Nigel de Jong led from the front was imposing."
The Dutch football association said De Jong will stay with the team in Brazil as he works on his recovery.
De Jong's injury is the latest blow to the Dutch midfield. Last week, Leroy Fer strained a hamstring in training a day after scoring the crucial opening goal a minute after coming on as a substitute in the 2-0 victory over Chile.
Fer missed the Mexico match in Fortaleza and is in doubt for the quarterfinal match on Saturday against Costa Rica in Salvador.
Before the tournament even started, injury robbed Van Gaal of two key midfielders — AS Roma workhorse Kevin Strootman and veteran creative midfielder Rafael van der Vaart.
Now Van Gaal is running short on options. On Sunday, he moved Daley Blind out of defense to plug the gap left by De Jong.
The coach also has Feyenoord midfielder Jordie Clasie in his 23-man squad.
Clasie is a tough tackler, but does not have De Jong's imposing presence and nowhere near his experience. De Jong played in his 75th international on Sunday, while Clasie, who has not yet played in Brazil, has made only eight appearances since making his debut in 2012.