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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
Group E - Qualifications

Van Nistelrooy: "This is a reward"

3 September 2010

Two months after the World Cup he would have loved to be part of Ruud van Nistelrooy is back with the Dutch team. He calls it "the tragedy of the moment", but he has overcome the disappointment. "This great, isn't it? I hadn't reckoned with this anymore. I'm having great fun."

Under applause of his team mates Van Nistelrooy stepped onto the training ground on Tuesday. He was called up again because of the injury of Robin van Persie. Already having bagged six goals this season for Hamburg Van Nistelrooy is fit. "The manager said he named me because of my achievements." He hadn't expected it, but that doesn't mean he relishes the fact any less.

He looks relaxed in hotel Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk. He says he doesn't have any expectations or guarantees. "I see this as a bonus. It's an open story. I don't know what will happen when Van Persie is back. Perhaps I can stay on the team. For now I just think this is great."

A joke
After a moment of silence he says: "Just how great is this? I didn't expect this. Every game I play from now on... This is great fun. It's a joke, no? Not that I am not taking it serious, but I managed to get back on the team, after two years. Of course I would have rather played a World Cup-final than away to San Marino. But the goal in itself was to get back on the team. Of course I see the tragedy of the moment. But I can live with that."

Some people in his entourage reacted negatively to his selection. "They said about Van Marwijk: let him go to hell. You're good enough for San Marino-away and not good enough for the World Cup. But no hard feelings. I don't feel abused or anything. The World Cup is over."

He does still feel he could have played a key part in South Africa. "I still feel that. Just like the Bondscoach sticks to his decision not to take me along. We will never know who was right." He puts on a big smile: "But I can hardly say he didn't do well huh..."

The reason for Van Marwijk back then, early May, was that Van Nistelrooy hadn't yet reached his old level, in terms of fitness and ability. "I would tell a lie when I say that I was as fit then as I am now. I have had a long vacation and a pre-season of eight weeks. A German pre-season as well, with sometimes three training sessions a day. I feel fitter than ever."

But there must have been moments of frustration when he was sitting in front of the TV in June and July? Moments when he thought 'I would have scored that one'. Yet he firmly denies that. "No really, I didn't. The first two games were painful. But after that the Oranje-feeling came back and I was drawn to the tele. I hoped they would win. Of course there were friends and family members who tried to be nice and said 'you would have scored three today'. But that is very opportunistic, of course. You can't say that, sitting on the couch."

The man in 'his' position, Robin van Persie, of course had his special attention. Choosing his words carefully and respectful, he says: "I saw Robin saying on TV how hard it is to be the center forward of Holland. I was thinking: 'I know that'. I felt sorry for him. I thought he was being very honest about it. I really hoped he would start scoring and unleash himself."

Goal getter
But Van Nistelrooy can't deny that Van Persie is not the prolific scorer that he himself was whenever he was fit - and might prove to be still. "I believe he was not on his best form during the World Cup. Robin is not a real goal getter. He is a guy who is looking for great things with skill and style as his starting point. But the opponents played very tight and then you depend on service from your team mates of which here was too little."

But he understood the choice of Van Marwijk to leave Van Persie on, even when it became clear that he was suffering. "I too had the feeling like he could explode any moment. The coach thought in much the same ways. That is good, I think."

Van Nistelrooy realizes that he will not be in the starting lineup against San Marino. But he's enjoying every minute of it. "These players are unique. The way Sneijder throws his passes around, left and right: magnificent."

And then there is this record that seemed unachievable in the past two years, but that now comes into view again. So far he has scored 33 goals in 64 games. One more goal and he will pass Johan Cruyff en Abe Lenstra on the list of all time top goal scorers. Another eight goals will put him on the number one spot that is now held by Patrick Kluivert. "Well, eight goals, that's many goals," he shrugs.

Despite all the joy of his renewed membership it could very well be that it's all over after just these two games. "That is why I am enjoying every minute of it. But when I stay fit and I can maintain my current level there's is a chance I make it to the European Championships, and that would be terrific. But I see this as a reward for two years of hard work and a lot of injury trouble."

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