The Netherlands need just one more win to secure a top-two finish in qualifying group E for next year’s European Championships finals. And that victory looks more than likely this week, with a meeting with San Marino scheduled for Friday.
It’s the FIFA world rankings number one playing the bottom of the list, but Holland are taking the match seriously all the same, says upcoming FC Twente talent Luuk de Jong.
De Jong, who turned 21 at the weekend, is currently on top form and might win his third cap for Holland this week. A relative newcomer, he relishes his time with the Dutch squad.
“These are precious moments for me, a great experience. Of course, it would be even greater if I could play a few minutes, but I’m very glad to be here as a member of the Dutch squad.”
Luuk de Jong received his first call-up for Oranje for the February friendly against Austria and was brought in to replace Dirk Kuyt. In early June, he joined Holland’s trip to Latin America, playing the final ten minutes in the match against Uruguay. How does he rate his chances of winning another cap this week?
“Of course, it’s up to the manager to decide. But perhaps I may be brought in as a substitute when we’re 4-0 or 5-0 ahead. The match could be less easy for us than expected though, which could also be a reason for the manager to field me.”
De Jong expects a serious damage-limitation exercise on the part of San Marino.
“They’ll probably dig in and hope to launch a counter-attack. Which means we have to be wary of underestimating them. By giving all we’ve got and by maintaining a high pace, we’ll be able to create plenty of scoring opportunities. Let’s hope for a few early goals to clinch the match.”
Once again, several key players are going to be missing due to injury. They include Nigel de Jong, Rafael van der Vaart, Arjen Robben and Theo Janssen. But their absence shouldn’t be too much of a problem, says De Jong.
“Of course we’ll miss them, but we still have plenty of quality players left to make up for their absence. They’re quite capable of upholding the quality and style of our play. But imagine what it would be if all players were fit – that would give the manager a huge luxury problem. As it stands, there are enough players who can steer the game.”
Holland will be playing for a 35,000 capacity crowd in Eindhoven. The match has been sold out for weeks. De Jong knows what the fans expect: a double-digit score.
“Yes, that’s what they want. And hopefully we’ll make them happy and score as many goals as we can.”