Nigel de Jong didn’t commit a single foul against Hungary on Friday. The midfielder was axed from the squad five months ago after his leg-breaking tackle in a Premier League match. Now he’s back in Oranje, and this time he was able to keep his cool. In fact, De Jong is thoroughly enjoying his return.
Friday’s encounter ended in a comfortable 4-0 victory for the Dutch national football team, who maintain a perfect record in their bid for a ticket to next year’s European Championship tournament.
“It’s a fantastic performance overall and I feel privileged to be part of that team,” De Jong told Radio Netherlands Worldwide after the match.
With Rafael van der Vaart, he constituted a seemingly insurmountable two-men barrier in front of the Dutch defence, the launchpad for some of Holland’s lethal counterattacks. Not surprisingly, it was Van der Vaart who scored the first goal.
“Everyone knows Rafael is an outstanding football player, who developed well in England. We are lucky to have a quality player like him to play in that kind of position. But it’s not only Rafael, we have Mark van Bommel too, and myself of course, as well as the young lads who’re now coming forward.”
The Manchester City midfielder is glad that the five-month disciplinary measure is now over. He says he’s learned his lesson well. As far as De Jong is concerned, the chapter that opened with his karate-kick on Xabi Alonso in last year’s World Cup final is now firmly closed.
“Yes, you learn from every situation. But the World Cup was last year. And now is now. I’ve learned a thing or two from the Hungary match too. We have to focus on the present and look towards the future.”
That future starts on Tuesday with the return match in Amsterdam against Hungary in UEFA Euro qualifying group E. De Jong expects a change of tack from the Magyar side.
“They will come at us a little bit more aggressively than the last two games, which we won 6-1 and 4-0. They’ll just have to try to beat us. It was a sore disappointment for them, to be thrashed at home. They won’t want it to happen a third time around.”
“On the other hand, they know how we play now. We scored ten goals against them in two games. They might be a little more cautious now. But if we just play our game, I see no problems at all.”