The European Championship finally gives Memphis Depay a chance to shine on the big stage.
The Dutch striker has two goals and two assists, heading to Sunday’s match against the Czech Republic in the round of 16. He scored seven goals in eight games in 2021 and at 27 is entering his peak years.
Depay’s vitality played a big role in the team’s three victories in the group stage of Euro 2020, with the recent forward of Barcelona scoring or creating half of the eight goals.
“He showed how important he is to us. He is a player with special qualities, “said Dutch defender Daily Blind. “He can do magic things with the ball.”
Assistant coach of the Netherlands Ruud van Nistelrooy, the excellent finalist himself, said that Depay has blossomed as a leader.
“I see focus and conviction, the need to show what’s there and the will to be the best,” Van Nistelrooy said. “It’s something I find beautiful to see.”
But it wasn’t always like that for Depay.
When he joined Manchester United six years ago, it was a lot of noise. He received the iconic T-shirt number 7, worn by George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Best and Cantona were among the most skilled players to ever grab United, Beckham one of the club’s best midfielders. Ronaldo, a dazzling wing with lightning legs, is now the co-scorer for the most goals in the men’s national team with 109. Ronaldo is also the leading scorer of Euro 2020 with five goals and is the overall leader of the competition with 14.
The weight of expectations at United crushed Depay, who scored just seven goals in 53 games.
He left in January 2017 to revive his career with seven-time French champion Lyon, the same year he began to pursue another passion as a hip-hop artist.
Depay scored 76 goals in 178 games for Lyon, including a spectacular turn and a midfield shot.
The Czechs have a major threat of their own under striker Patrick Schick. So far, he has scored three goals in Euro 2020, as much as the Dutch midfielder Georgino Vainaldum.
Chic scored one of the best goals of the tournament with a spectacular looping shot exactly from the middle of the line in a 2-0 victory over Scotland.
“It was probably the most beautiful goal of the tournament. It was world class, “said Dutch coach Frank de Boer through an interpreter.” We respect every attacker, especially him. “
But he is the only player to score for the Czechs, who slipped in as one of the top four teams in third place.
Czech captain Vladimir Darida, a midfielder with 73 international appearances, is suspicious after suffering an unspecified injury during training on Friday.
CONTINUATION OF THE CAPTAIN
Wijnaldum will wear a captain’s armband decorated with “OneLove” and a colorful heart in Sunday’s match.
“Of course, everyone knows the situation in Hungary,” he told NOS, citing a new Hungarian law that bans the sharing of any content depicting homosexuality or gender reassignment with minors.
The law has been condemned as discrimination against LGBT people.
There was strong support for the LGBT community in Munich on Wednesday before Germany’s match against Hungary.
German captain Manuel Neuer wore an arc armband.
“We liked that,” Wijnaldum said.
De Boer added: “We are against any form of discrimination.”
CRUYFF AND PANENKA
The two sides have met before, when then-Czechoslovakia beat the Netherlands 3-1 after extra time in the 1976 semi-finals.
Then the Dutch had Johan Cruyff.
His signed move had his back to a defender, then spun around as he threw the ball over his legs in one quick motion.
It became known as the Cruyff’s Turn.
But the Czechs had a player who would become famous on his own.
When the final against West Germany went on penalties, midfielder Antonin Panenka had the winning tournament at his feet. In front of him was the imposing Sepp Meyer, one of the greatest goalkeepers of his time.
Panenka made a long run, but then gently punched the ball in the middle of the door when Maier desperately plunged to the left.
This style of penalty kick is known as “Panenka”.
France’s Zinedine Zidane scored with Panenka against Italy in the 2006 World Cup final, and Depay sometimes takes penalties in this way.