World Cup 2022: Netherlands faces flu outbreak ahead of U.S. match

The U.S. men's national team and the Netherlands both shared potentially pivotal news on the eve of their Saturday Round of 16 World Cup match.

Several members of the Netherlands team are battling flu symptoms, manager Louis van Gaal told NOS on Friday.

"I gave them a day of rest," Van Gaal added. "With this group, they communicate that to me. I listen to my players."

All 26 players had a light practice on Friday, skipping the traditional 11-on-11 scrimmage the starters would usually play with the team.

Van Gaal seemed confident his team will be able to take the field. There are fewer than 15 players he expects to be sidelined.

When asked about which players are experiencing symptoms, he told NOS: "We are not going to elaborate on that. But if it goes around in the group, it is worrying."

Meanwhile, the USMNT announced Friday that star Christian Pulisic is now officially available to play Saturday after suffering a “pelvic contusion” while scoring the goal that clinched the U.S. a place in the knockout rounds.

Van Gaal is not underestimating the upcoming challenge.

“The USA has an excellent team. I would say one of the best teams, fine-tuned. It’s going to be a very tough match,” he said. “But it’s nothing we can’t overcome. We also have a good team, that’s my view. We’ll have to wait and see in this match which of the two squads is the best."

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Netherlands Training - Qatar University Training Site 6, Doha, Qatar - December 2, 2022  Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal during training REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal put his team through a light practice Friday. (REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw)

How cold is the air conditioning in Qatar?

Van Gaal’s news was not the first mention of flu-like symptoms during the World Cup. Brazil's players mentioned the same after the team's win over Switzerland, with star winger Antony blaming the air-conditioning at the team base in Qatar for Neymar and some of his other teammates feeling ill. Spain and the U.S. have also reportedly experienced symptoms and cited the “omnipresent” air conditioning.

Netherlands midfielders Frenkie de Jong and Marten de Roon alluded to some symptoms earlier in the week. De Roon said he had a cold after reporters noticed his eyes watering, while de Jong said a scratchy throat made it difficult to communicate during the team's Group A victory over Qatar.

The cooling is reported to be exceptionally effective. Stadiums and rooms have been chilled by as much as 20 degrees compared to the average 80-degree Qatar temperatures.