Daniël de Ridder may have stolen all the headlines but Demy de Zeeuw "was the real motor" of the Netherlands team that defeated Italy and reached the UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-finals.
The AZ Alkmaar midfielder, who turned 23 four days ago, linked up superbly with club-mate Stijn Schaars while allowing Ismaïl Aissati freedom to play in the centre of the park, and from this solid platform the Dutch were able to take control of proceedings at the Estádio Municipal de Aveiro last night. The Netherlands dominated possession, not surprisingly prompting those words of praise from De Haan about his midfield engine.
"This was a great result for us," De Zeeuw told uefa.com. "It feels good because we didn't play well in the first two games. But we all knew that we had to win this game and we played a good match. The Italian teams are always strong in midfield but because of the way they play they leave a lot of space between the strikers and the midfielders and I think we were able to make the most of that."
They did just that when the ball found its way out to Romeo Castelen on the left in the 74th minute and he swung in a cross that De Ridder met with his head. "It felt really good when the goal went in - the fans were fantastic for us and everyone was able to celebrate," said De Zeeuw, who after allowing himself a moment of satisfaction at a job well done switched instantly to the next challenge ahead and Thursday's semi-final.
"France will be a really difficult game," he said. "They are very good, strong and I don't know what our chances are. We'll have to see. We have got two days to work towards that match. I think if we beat France we have got a good chance of becoming champions. But that will be a tough match."
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