A senior Dutch international and part of a 'Keezen' dream team with Daley Blind, Stefen de Vrij feels this month's U21 finals will be another "important stage in my development".
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Stefen de Vrij is taking things one step at a time on the pitch in Israel – "it's a great experience" – but already has the bragging rights in the Netherlands' team hotel: "I play with Daley Blind and we win almost every time."
De Vrij has enjoyed a stellar season for Feyenoord and his country. An Eredivisie regular for his club once more, the 21-year-old's performances in the Dutch top flight have also attracted the attention of senior Oranje coach Louis van Gaal. He has made five full international appearances this term and now looks set to form a key part of Cor Pot's UEFA European Under-21 Championship squad in Israel. Until Thursday's opener against Germany, though, only glory off the field is up for grabs.
"We do lots of things together to build a team," De Vrij told UEFA.com at his team's Tel Aviv hotel. "We have been to eat together, we have a games room downstairs. We have table tennis and we also have a Dutch game called Keezen, which you play with a lot of players. It's difficult to explain, but it's fun. I don't know how to explain the game – it's on a board. We play in teams; I play with Daley Blind and we win almost every time!"
The Dutch have enjoyed great success in age group football in recent years, having won the UEFA European U17 Championship in 2011 and 2012. De Vrij also played for U17 coach Albert Stuivenberg – who will succeed Pot this summer – but suffered defeat at the hands of Germany in the 2009 final.
"I was in the U17s when we came second, but also two or three players were there when they won," he added. "Speaking for myself, I played a final against Germany which we lost. So this is kind of revenge for me; not like that, but I am looking forward to playing against Germany. That was an experience I had which I have brought with me, and I hope it will help us in this tournament."
Of far more recent value to De Vrij, and 11 of his team-mates in Israel, is playing for the senior outfit alongside 2006 U21 winners such as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. "I have played for the national team but only friendly games," said De Vrij. "The coaches agreed that those players could also play here, and I really wanted to because it's a great experience. It's important because it has helped us in our development."