The Netherlands is so strong because of Memphis Depay

10. Oct. 2021

  • Gini Wijnaldum has been playing extremely well for the Netherlands for years

  • The midfielder shares his memories of Brazil in 2014 and his hopes for Qatar in 2022

  • He raves about Louis van Gaal, Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and Lionel Messi

“Kluivert, Van Nistelrooy, Huntelaar, Van Persie … these players have scored a goal every two games on average. The Dutch have never lacked great goalscorers. Now we have to find a new one quickly, otherwise black streak could continue. ” This is what Jan Mulder said after the Netherlands’ biggest football failure. Somehow the team, which was runner-up in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and third in Brazil in 2014, missed qualifying for two major tournaments in a row, namely the UEFA EURO and the FIFA World Cup ™.

Fortunately it was Orange then you will find what you are looking for relatively quickly. One of their players has scored an average of 0.56 goals per game in the last 32 international matches, helping the team to qualify for UEFA EURO 2020 and to lead the table in qualifying for Qatar 2022. Amazingly, however, he is not a striker, but someone Jürgen Klopp called a “perfect midfielder”.

Gini Wijnaldum spoke to FIFA about the good shape of the Netherlands, his own successes, the game under Louis van Gaal, the brilliance of Virgil van Dijk and Memphis Depay, his hopes for Qatar 2022, the opponent in Group G, Erling Haaland, and about being Lionel Messi’s teammate.

The Netherlands have three wins and one draw under Louis van Gaal, defeating Montenegro 4-0 and Turkey 6-1. Are you sure you are very satisfied with the shape of the team?
We are really very happy with the results. But we also believe that we can play better football than before, especially when we have the ball. We can be more relaxed and look for spaces where a man is free. We can do a lot better in this respect, but we’re very happy with the results.

What is Louis van Gaal like as a coach?
He’s a great coach – he’s shown that well enough on the national team and at the clubs he worked for – but he’s also a really good person who you can always talk to. As a trainer, he’ll show you exactly what he wants. And he has very precise ideas about how to play. He wants the players to have his ideas in mind too. Everyone should know what to do and I think you can see that on the field too. One of the best things about him is that he always strives to improve players. Of course, this primarily benefits the young players, but he wants to improve every player, even the experienced ones.

In your last 32 international matches, you have scored 18 goals from midfield. Was it your goal to become a midfield goalscorer that you set yourself before the start of this winning streak?
Everyone who knows me as a player knows that I can score goals. I can penetrate the opponent’s penalty area and develop great danger – score goals, prepare opportunities. I’ve always wanted to show that I can score goals, but the circumstances have not always been favorable. It depends on the team and what position you’re playing in. as [Ronald] Koeman came to the national team, he put me in a position where I can prepare chances and score goals. I’m happy with the goals I scored, they were important and helped the team, but I also want to say that it was my team-mates who made it possible for me to score those goals. I hope that I can continue to do this for the national team.

Is Virgil van Dijk the best center-back in the world?
Everyone has their own opinion on this. Some prefer to see a central defender who is particularly good at the ball. Some prefer a central defender who is a leader who helps his teammates. Some, on the other hand, want a central defender who defends really well and who can hardly be ignored. Virgil has all of these qualities. He’s definitely one of the very best.

What do you think of Memphis Depay?
Memphis is a great player. The Netherlands are so strong, not least because of Memphis. It’s going so well for me personally because he’s so good that our opponents have to keep an eye on him. That creates space for me and for the other midfielders. He makes the players around him better. He’s a striker now, but he can do a lot more than just score goals – he keeps things moving, he assists. We are very lucky to have him.

The outcome of Group G could depend on your last game against Norway, the strength of which depends heavily on Erling Haaland. What do you think of him?
He’s just a great player. It’s unbelievable what he does week after week at Dortmund. He’s also incredibly strong in the Champions League. He already showed what he can do in Salzburg when he was very young. He’s one of the best strikers out there right now. And I think it will get even better. He is young and will still learn a lot.

What are your fondest memories of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil ™?
How close we were as a team, how hard we worked for each other day in and day out. The trips to the games – we always had to fly – were unforgettable, there was a great atmosphere in the team. And of course our performance at the tournament. We finished third. That was a great performance, especially after many thought we would be eliminated in the group stage. But what I remember best is how close we were as a team, how well we all got along. And I have to say that this is still the case now. We are all very close. We are like family.

How big was the disappointment about the missed World Cup in Russia in 2018?
That was really, really difficult. It’s bad enough to miss a big tournament. But it’s even worse if you’ve already had the experience of being in a tournament like this. The world championship was an incredible experience. Knowing the feeling of taking part in a big tournament with the national team and then not being there in 2016 and 2018 was really painful because you know exactly what you are missing out on. I didn’t really follow the UEFA EURO and the missed World Cup at all. Every time I tried to look at it, it was just too painful. So we were really happy that we qualified for the Euro 2020, and we definitely want to qualify for the World Cup next year.

How much would it mean for the Dutch to finally win the World Cup?
The Dutch are very enthusiastic about football, especially when it comes to tournaments – the EURO, the World Cup. You have to be in the country to experience how passionate the fans are when the Dutch team plays. It would mean a lot to people. We’ve been to a few finals and lost them, so if we could bring the trophy home … I can’t imagine how happy that would make people.

What is it like to have Lionel Messi as a teammate at Paris Saint-Germain?
(smiles) Seeing a footballing genius from such a close range is difficult to describe. He’s one of the best players ever. To see him train every day is a great honor. And seeing how nice he is as a person makes it very special. Everyone at PSG is very happy. That gave the club a real boost. I’m very lucky to have him as a teammate.

Who do you think are the top three players in the world right now?
Everyone answers this question with Messi and Ronaldo, because they have dominated football for 15 years … The third player is always a different one. When you talk about the best players in the world, people almost automatically call them midfielders and attackers, but we also have great defenders. In any case, Virgil van Dijk belongs very high up. I’m now playing with Verratti at Paris Saint-Germain and he’s phenomenal. He’s never mentioned on questions like this because his job isn’t to score a lot of goals and provide a lot of assists, but what he does in training and on the pitch is great.

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