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Verbruggen on England semi, penalties and why six Netherlands keepers are better than one

The Netherlands' Bart Verbruggen, 21, is the EURO's youngest goalkeeper in 60 years, but the Brighton youngster is not resting on his laurels as he targets a place in Sunday's final.

Verbruggen: 'It was like we had six goalkeepers'

Bart Verbruggen made history before he made his first save at UEFA EURO 2024. Only 21 years and 303 days old when he took to the field against Poland on 16 June, he became the youngest goalkeeper for 60 years to appear in the tournament. Since then, his commanding performances have helped the Oranje advance to the semi-finals for the first time since 2004.

Latest: Netherlands vs England

The Brighton keeper smiles as he reflects on the closing stages of the 2-1 quarter-final victory against Türkiye, which set up Wednesday's last-four showdown with England in Dortmund. "For the last ten minutes, it felt like we had six goalkeepers!" he says.

"Wout [Weghorst] cleared a rebound, Micky [van de Ven] made a fantastic intervention, Denzel [Dumfries] blocked one from [Hakan] Çalhanoǧlu, Jerdy [Schouten] almost jumped on Stefan de Vrij to stop a shot… and I'm probably forgetting a few. That shows how determined we were. We celebrated every blocked shot or tackle as if it were a third goal."

Great Netherlands EURO goals

Verbruggen fits the mould of the modern keeper, and is extremely adept with the ball at his feet. "The ball-playing ability of the goalkeeper is increasingly important," explains the former Anderlecht shot-stopper.

"The keeper is the first attacker and the last defender. I feel comfortable on the ball. I enjoy it. And goalkeepers are definitely involved in tactical aspects of build-up play and attacking. You always need to look at how your opponent will press.

"But let's not forget that my main job is to keep the ball out of the net, which means dealing with crosses, long-distance shots, and sharpening my reflexes. I'm trying to be the best I possibly can in all these aspects.

"I'd like to think of myself as an all-round keeper. I hope that doesn't sound too arrogant. I just love what I do, and I'm always looking to improve. There's nothing I would rather do than this."

The Netherlands captain, Virgil van Dijk, is fully supportive of his young No1. "Bart is very talented, an outstanding goalkeeper," he says. "Coincidentally, he started out at the same amateur club as I did (WDS'19 in Breda). He has a very bright future ahead of him. He just needs to keep working hard, while remaining calm, and everything will be completely fine."

Youngest EURO goalkeepers

21y 108d José Ángel Iribar (Spain, 1964)
21y 303d Bart Verbruggen (Netherlands, 2024)
22y 20d Leif Nielsen (Denmark, 1964)
22y 26d Petr Čech (Czech Republic, 2004)
22y 51d Wojciech Szczęsny (Poland, 2012)

For the 21-year-old from Zwolle, Wednesday's semi-final has extra resonance because it's against the country where he plays his club football. "One of my team-mates, Lewis Dunk, is in the England squad," he says. "I've also played against quite a lot of the other players in their team.

"And, yes, a number of my Oranje team-mates, for example Nathan [Aké], Virgil and Cody [Gakpo], also play in England. But I'm not sure that's an advantage because the English guys know us too. So it works both ways. To be honest, I don't really care who our opponents are. I just want to win, and get to the final."

Verbruggen is well aware that the contest could be decided by penalties. "Of course, you always try to win in 90 minutes. But if it goes to spot kicks, we'll be ready. You just try to prepare yourself as well as you can, together with the other keepers, our analysts and our staff.

"I'm comfortable with the idea. I've had penalties scored against me in the past, but I've also stopped plenty. If the moment comes [against England], I'm going to stand, with confidence, and try to be decisive for the team. That's all I can do."

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