PARIS (AFP) – Ruud van Nistelrooy heaped praise on Memphis Depay as the Netherlands prepare for their Euro 2020 last 16 tie with the Czech Republic tonight (midnight Brunei time) with the forward on a hot run of form.
Depay, who will join Barcelona next week, has been integral to the Dutch’s stroll through the group stage, scoring twice and setting up one more as the Oranje racked up a perfect nine points and scored eight goals in three games.
“Memphis is a guy of whom I see a specific focus and conviction, a need to show what he has and will to be the best within team in which he plays,” said Van Nistelrooy, an assistant to coach Frank de Boer.
“It’s something I find beautiful to see.”
Speaking in a video conference with reporters, former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Van Nistelrooy, who scored 35 goals in 70 appearances for the Netherlands, said that it was a “pleasure” working with Depay, who is keen to learn more about the art of forward play with one of the best strikers of his generation.
“He’s very open to discussions about certain areas where things go well and where he can improve. We have a lot of talks about details of games, finishing, timing of runs, his hunger to improve,” he said.
“He keeps asking questions, and it’s not a one-way discussion of me telling him what to do… he started on the wing but he’s developed himself very well as a number nine. He shows up where he needs to be and links up a lot with build-up play.”
The Dutch have played an almost carefree style up to now in the Euro but Van Nistelrooy said that knockout football could affect the way the flamboyant team approach the game in Budapest.
“It’s a different mentality, more pressure,” said the 44-year-old.
“In the groups you have more moments where you can make a mistake, in that sense it’s a different kind of pressure, it’s all or nothing. Mentally that’s important.”
Defender Daley Blind also warned against his team relaxing against the Czechs, who qualified as one of the four best third-placed teams from the group stage.
“It’s a new phase of the tournament and it brings a new dimension to the games,” he said.
“In knockout phases you can’t be relaxed, you have to be there for 90 minutes, possibly more than 90 minutes… it’s purely results orientated.”