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"The intellectualisation
of football has
always foundered
on a simple problem-
-the players. Doing
all your most
rewarding thinking
with your feet seems
to dull the philo-
sophical impulse.
Unless, of course,
you are Dutch.
According to legend,
Europeans played
a moronic, muscular
version of the world's
game, until Holland
proclaimed its vision
of total football in the
1974 World Cup,
and enlightenment

Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football

UEFA Euro 2012 Poland & Ukraine - Friendlies
Ibrahim Afellay Oranje's Zidane?


Looking for the ideal offensive lineup bondscoach Bert van Marwijk will have an extra option tonight. For the first time since the summer of 2011 Ibrahim Afellay as provider for the center forward. Afellay has proven that he can function in that role for Robin van Persie, and he has done it for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as well.

When asked after their best games for Holland, both Van Persie and Huntelaar point to games in which the same player took on the leading role. It was Ibrahim Afellay who allowed Van Persie to shine, one night in May of 2010 in Freiburg. Preparing for the last World Cup Van Persie scored two against Mexico and laid claim to the center forward position.

Huntelaar played one of his best games in the first game of the qualification campaign for this tournament. Beating Sweden 4-1 at home Huntelaar played a key role assisted by Afellay, who scored a goal himself.

When Holland face Slovakia in De Kuip in Rotterdam it will be interesting to see whether Van Marwijk will give the recovered Barcelona striker any playing time. If yes: which finisher will he find in front of him? During yesterday's training in the village of Hoenderloo Afellay spent some time rehearsing on the left wing with Van Persie up front. There's a perfect fit between the two of them, as could be observed in other games the two played together. Yet after that sparkling night in Freiburg it didn't happen in South Africa. Van Marwijk preferred Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van der Vaart. Afellay came of the bench only a few times.

Yet it's an interesting story to see how Afellay might return to the team on the left wing. Thinking back to Zinedine Zidane Van Marwijk tried to get him interested in a hanging position on the left. "Deep inside they all want to play on the number 10 position, the Van der Vaarts, Sneijders and Afellays of this era," Van Marwijk tells Dutch daily AD Sportwereld. "But one of the best number 10's ever always played coming from the left at Real Madrid. When you play just outside the box, in the center, you often play with your back towards the goal. From the side you're facing the goal and you have more options. Cut inside, go wide and cross. Afellay has allowed me to convince him, and I feel he's shown us that he feels well on that position."

The player himself came to Hoenderloo just being tremendously happy that he finally play again after almost an entire season of recovery from a knee injury. "At first I couldn't believe it was happening to me. It was a nightmare, yet real," Afellay said Monday, after his first training session.

The 26-year-old admitted he has gone through hell. " That feeling lasted for months, but I came through. I never doubted I would, but I didn't have a date set on which I wanted to be back. All that mattered was to get healthy again. I am now."

When he got injured in September doctors told him the recovery period would be nine months, which endangered his changes for the upcoming tournament. But on the 29th of April he was came on for 15 minutes in Barcelona's league game against Rayo Vallecano. "The good feeling returned pretty quickly after that. How can it not when every day you train with world class players? The recovery has now lasted 8 months, and I can only be positive about it."

During that period manager Bert van Marwijk frequently hinted at Afellay being important for his team. "Of course it's great to hear that the manager has faith in you. But I know what my qualities are, and that is most important. My family, friends and team mates gave me great support, but in the end you have to do it yourself. There have been a number of difficult moments. But at such times there are two things you can do: either you hang down your head and get cross, but that doesn't help you. So I chose get to it and work hard to get back."

Without having had much playing time Afellay showed up in Hoenderloo on Monday. No problem, he said. "Barcelona are well oiled team and so it's hard to push your way in at the end of the season. But what is match rhythm when you play like a turd every week? A player like me never loses his feeling for the ball. Mentally and physically I am now stronger than I was before my injury. I'm back."

Euro 2012 campaign - Results, schedule, standings

Holland at European Championships

All time European Championships ranking


Robben: "Hard to grasp"
Van Bommel after defeat: "I'm a little speechless"
Van Marwijk: "In no mood to get negative"
Flat Dutch don't know what to do with 20+ chances
Netherlands-Denmark: lineup
Joris Mathijsen recovering well
Cruyff: "Kuyt at right back"
Mathijsen still uncertain - could miss entire tournament
Holland and Denkmark: head-to-head
Van Persie seems worth the confidence
Van Marwijk again opts for Van Persie instead of Huntelaar
Huntelaar: "Upset is not the right the word"
Ron Vlaar: "I know what I am capable of"
Van Marwijk: "We remained disciplined"
Ibi and Rafa show manager he has options
Ibrahim Afellay Oranje's Zidane?
Van Marwijk looking for certainties
Cruijff: "Not enough depth in your game is asking for trouble"
Bouma: "I've gone through the desert"
Van Persie: "Defeat at this point not a problem"
Euro 2012 finals squad
Mathijsen strains muscle
Bulgarians surprise Oranje
Ola Toivonen's goal sees Sweden beat Holland and qualify
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar sinks Moldova
Oranje maintain perfection, beat Finland
Netherlands thrash San Marino in Euro 2012 qualifier
Kuyt kills off brave Hungary for Netherlands
Oranje trash Hungary
Sweden no match for Oranje
Van Marwijk: "We left them without chance"
Dirk Kuyt out for months
"We are prepared for all scenarios"
Minimal but easy win for Holland in Moldavia
Van Marwijk: "We played very well"
Holland want result after tumultuous week
Van der Vaart to replace De Jong
"This case only has losers"
Van Marwijk drops Nigel de Jong
Holland & Moldavia: head-to-head
Holland & Sweden: head-to-head
Wisgerhof replaces Maduro
Bouma back on the radar
Netherlands - Finland 2-1
Van Marwijk: "We were late all over the pitch"
Van Bommel: "There wasn't anymore in it"
Heitinga: "That can not happen"
Van der Vaart unhappy with role on the side
Kuyt and Boulahrouz out with injury
"It all revolves around Jari Litmanen"
Sneijder: "Don't tinker with it"
Alonso: "No hard feelings"
Van Marwijk: "Second half was better"
San Marino-Netherlands 0-5
Oranje: a new mission