Ten goals in three games, a 100% record and an enterprising brand of football tells its own story – this is a Netherlands side who are not backward in coming forward.
Maarten Stekelenburg told UEFA.com on the eve of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship that his Jong Oranje crop are "typically Dutch" in style. They have lived up to that billing in Malta, overcoming all three of their Group A opponents with real vigour. Key to their vibrant displays have been their wingers, Bilal Ould-Chikh, Abdelhak Nouri, Anthony Berenstein – before he picked up an injury – and Steven Bergwijn, who spoke to UEFA.com about the Dutch's distinctive approach ahead of Sunday's semi-final against Scotland.
"As everyone knows, Dutch football is always attacking," said the PSV Eindhoven forward. "We are a team that tries to make the pitch as big as possible. When you do this, you make space to play together and attack. If you fail to do this, you get pressured by the opposition more because there are more players closer together. However, the real strength of this team is that we are a team. You can write TEAM in capital letters!
"Every club in the Netherlands plays 4-3-3 and that starts very early. We have pupils from the age of six and from the moment they are on a full pitch they always play a 4-3-3 formation. For the Dutch, this is our best system. If you learn this from a young age, it makes it easier to understand what coaches expect from you."
It has been a fine few weeks for 16-year-old Bergwijn, neat and tidy on the pitch and sporting a pair of fashionable spectacles off it: "Just for style", he informs UEFA.com. He has struck two goals and set up another here, having come to Malta soon after signing a three-year contract at PSV, a club noted for their faith in youth. Indeed coach Phillip Cocu last summer told UEFA.com of his belief that "Young talents who have the potential to play for the first team must be given the chance to grow."
Georginio Wijnaldum is a case in point, having been made club captain at the age of just 23. He is understandably keen to keep an eye on the next generation and did not miss the opportunity to visit this U17 squad when they were fortunate enough to be invited to watch a PSV fixture in the directors' lounge during the elite round in March.
"Wijnaldum is young but he talks with all the players at the club and gives them advice, especially when you are new to PSV – he tries to make you feel welcome and create a warm atmosphere," added Bergwijn. "
If PSV keep doing what they are doing, I hope to be involved with the first team fairly soon. We already train quite a lot with the first-team squad. Phillip Cocu is always looking at the youngsters so I hope I have a good chance. He talks a lot with every young player at the club."
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