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Schaars smiles through whirlwind week

Published: Wednesday 7 June 2006, 5.34CET
The Netherlands' UEFA European Under-21 Championship-winning captain Stijn Schaars is relishing his "chance" of going to the FIFA World Cup.
by Patrick Hart
 

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Published: Wednesday 7 June 2006, 5.34CET

Schaars smiles through whirlwind week

The Netherlands' UEFA European Under-21 Championship-winning captain Stijn Schaars is relishing his "chance" of going to the FIFA World Cup.

The Netherlands' UEFA European Under-21 Championship-winning captain Stijn Schaars is relishing his "chance" of going to the FIFA World Cup, having been asked to join Marco van Basten's squad at their pre-tournament training camp in Germany.

'A great honour'
The 22-year-old from AZ Alkmaar is one of two stand-by players, alongside Hamburger SV's Nigel de Jong, to link up with the Oranje this week as doubts persist over the fitness of a number of Van Basten's midfielders. For Schaars, the call caps an "outstanding" fortnight. He played all five of the Netherlands' matches as they took the European U21 title in Portugal. Speaking after the 3-0 final victory over Ukraine in Porto, Schaars told uefa.com: "It is outstanding, unbelievable, and a great honour to lift this trophy."

Fighting spirit
Foppe de Haan's Jong Oranje made amends for a slow start by qualifying from their group by beating – and eliminating – holders Italy. They then overcame many people's favourites France in the semi-finals before Sunday's crowning glory. "Tonight was my best game," Schaars said of the Ukraine match. "In the beginning [of the tournament] I didn't feel good, I was in bad shape and not really fit. It has not been a great personal tournament but as a team we have been fantastic. We have all been fighting for each other."

Van Basten call
Schaars' efforts did not go unnoticed. He admitted to uefa.com: "Marco van Basten called our coach Foppe de Haan to ask about players. Two midfielders went out after the Netherlands match at the weekend and there's a chance of me going [to the World Cup]."

Last updated: 07/06/06 14.16CET

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