Nigel de Jong: Q&A
You’ve been in and out of the Manchester City team this season. Does this mean you will be fresh for the summer, or would you rather have had more games?
I’ve experienced the Euros and World Cup before. I was really fresh for both of them after long seasons at club level and played throughout each tournament, so I don’t think that really matters.
How much will the pain of losing in the last World Cup final be a motivating factor for this Holland team?
It’s a big motivation for us. Everyone is two years older, has more experience and is really up for it. We’ll be stronger this time.
How would you describe the mood in the Dutch camp?
There is a great team spirit and the mood is very positive – it always is. We have good harmony within our team and that has showed in the success we’ve had over the last two or three years.
What do you make of your group?
It’s hard – maybe the tournament’s group of death – and every team has a chance to go through to the next stage. Germany will no doubt be there or thereabouts – we lost 3-0 in Germany a little while back so we know what their qualities are. In tournaments like this, however, there can be a lot of surprises. It will be hard for us, but it will be hard for the other teams too, so we just need to be focused on what we have to do and hopefully we’ll be OK.
Which teams do you count as the favourites to win?
Again Germany, and also Spain and ourselves. It’s just too hard to call; but there is one fewer round than in the World Cup so you have to hit the ground running. I really think there will be one or two shock results, but we’ll have to wait and see what they are.
Some people have said the Euros is more difficult to win than the World Cup. What do you think?
I think there could be some truth in that, but there are more games in the World Cup so it’s a tough call. If you look at the FIFA world rankings, you’ll find a lot of European teams close together near the top… so read into that what you will.
How do you rate England’s chances this time?
Every team has a chance and England are no different. I know there have been some problems identifying a new head coach, but England have a very good squad and they can do well.
Is your ideal scenario to reach the final and play the sort of football the Dutch are famed for, rather than the way things panned out in the World Cup final?
I don’t know because every game is different and presents different challenges. If we reach the final, our style will depend on who we are playing – but we need to make sure we get there first. We can’t look beyond the group stages yet because that will be tough enough.
Interview by David Clayton. From the June 2012 issue of FourFourTwo