Rafael van der Vaart is back with the Dutch national squad. The Tottenham playmaker missed out on Holland’s previous matches last month due to a hamstring injury. But now he’s rejoined the orange squad as they prepare for the two final Euro 2012 qualifiers against Moldova and Sweden.
RNW: In the first match against Moldova, you played as a defensive midfielder, but with Wesley Sneijder injured you can move the number 10 playmaker position? And that’s of course, what you prefer isn’t it?
“That’s my favourite position, of course. Here in the national team, we have Wesley Sneijder. When he’s fit, he plays behind the strikers, and then I play sometimes like a holding midfielder. But in this team, you can play everywhere, because we play good football based on possession. So it doesn’t matter where I play.”
RNW: You say it’s good to be here, good to be with the national squad. It that because it takes you away from the pressures of the Premier League?
“I don't know, I feel good. The last two games I scored and we even beat Arsenal. We really play well, but sometimes it’s good to join the national team. But now I left now after winning against Arsenal and I would have preferred to stay a few more days to enjoy that victory.”
RNW: The mood among the Holland squad seems to be really relaxed. Is that your impression too?
“We’ve qualified so there’s no pressure anymore. Of course, we want to win every game, but you know, we played the Word Cup final [in 2010, ed], everybody loves this team, the press is positive and that helps.”
RNW: You’re the most-capped player for Holland, you’ve seen players come and go and you’ve played in different formations. This is one of the most consistent Dutch teams in years, isn’t it?
“I’ve played for the national team for many years now, but I think this team is one of the best I’ve ever played, with a good coach and with everything coming together. And, of course, we played the World Cup final and that experience has been so important for the whole team that we really believe that we can win something.”
RNW: What, in your view, is the key factor in Holland’s recent successes?
“It’s the players in combination with the coach, but I think the players are all a bit older now, most of us are 26, 27 or 28. So it’s a good mix of young and a little bit older players. There’s a lot of experience with everybody playing for big clubs in big leagues and that helps the national team.”
RNW: And it doesn’t really seem to matter much how many injuries there are, does it?
“No, we have a big squad, and even without key players like Sneijder, Heitinga, Robben we have other players to replace them and they also do well.”
RNW: How about the organisation behind all this? How important has the organization been to Holland’s sterling performance in the Euro 2012 qualifiers?
“Yes, that’s fantastic. You know we’re a small country, but everything is so well-organised and it’s really fantastic to come to Holland, to come to this hotel, to train in this great accommodation. It’s all fantastic.”
RNW: Looking back on the qualifying campaign, do you now still see any progress in the team?
“Yes, every day I see progress. The most important thing of the qualifying games is that you win everything and that you qualify. Of course, the European Championships will be a different story. A lot of big teams are going to be there and it’s a tournament, so you’ve got to be 100 percent to win. So, there’s still a long way to go and everybody is still in the league, but I think everyone of us plays for big clubs and will make progress there too.”