A goalkeeper cannot ask much more than to get his team to an international final without conceding; that is exactly what Netherlands No1 Boy de Jong has done at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Serbia.
The Netherlands defeated holders England 1-0 in Novi Sad on Thursday to book a decider against Germany on Sunday, having already seen off that side 2-0 in the group stage before beating Romania 1-0 and drawing 0-0 with the Czech Republic in Group B. "For us this is special," De Jong told UEFA.com. "
This is a European Championship, a once in a lifetime moment."
De Jong was rested against the Czech Republic but he played in the first two and now has a personal run of five consecutive clean sheets. Indeed, this season he has let in only one goal in ten appearances, usually behind club-mate centre-backs Terence Kongolo and Karim Rekik. "Many of us play together at Feyenoord, that makes us really strong, we know what we all are going to do," De Jong said.
"But the team is the most important thing – the defenders, the midfielders, everyone is working together as a team. It's not only the defence but the whole team which keeps clean sheets. I'm not here just to make saves but also to direct the defenders."
They also needed someone to score, and that someone was Arsenal FC midfielder Kyle Ebecilio. "He is a perfect player for us," De Jong said. "He is really strong in midfield and also attack, he scored here and against Germany, he is a very important player."
Although Ebecilio knew the England team from his club matches, that inside information was not decisive according to De Jong. "Kyle said some things but the most important things came from the staff, analysing their tactics," he said. "We'd seen film of them, and set our tactics accordingly. It feels great."
Now Germany await, with the Netherlands aiming to break their duck in this competition having fallen to their neigbours in the final two years ago and to Turkey in the 2005 showpiece. Will this be the Netherlands' year? "We hope to beat [Germany] twice," De Jong said. "But we are in the final, that's the most important thing... we are going to do our best and we want to prove ourselves."
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