The all-action Netherlands forward tells EURO2020.com that their round of 16 rivals "have never been an easy team to play against".
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Memphis Depay is still very much a talismanic figure for the Netherlands. The top scorer in the squad with 28 goals, he was involved in every one of his side's efforts against Austria and North Macedonia as the Dutch won UEFA EURO 2020 Group C with a game to spare.
The 27-year-old forward spoke to EURO2020.com about everything from his role on and off the pitch to his recovery from a cruciate ligament knee injury and his thoughts on the Oranje's chances of going all the way.Netherlands vs Czech Republic: live build-up
What were your group stage highlights?
The opening game [against Ukraine], of course, with the exciting finale. Our first three points; a home game with your own fans; the atmosphere in the stadium after not having played at a tournament for so long; new, young players being given a chance – and the feeling of beginning to grow into the tournament. So many great things.
How do you see your role in this team?
I try to use the qualities I have to create chances. If you get the opportunity to score, sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don't. If you do so regularly, you become important for the team. But it's also very important that we can still be effective even if I'm not involved. You see that, for example, Denzel [Dumfries] is really dangerous. That's fantastic.
Can you help your younger team-mates?
I think so. I have a good relationship with the younger players but also with the older ones. I'm right in the middle. When it's the older players against the younger ones in training, I'm still with the youngsters because I only turned 27 in February. Yet when I look at guys like Ryan [Gravenberch], who's 19, and Jurriën [Timber] and Cody [Gakpo], they're young.
I was at [the FIFA World Cup] in 2014 and I was the same. So I know a little about how they're feeling. We also have the same interests, such as music and having the drive to want to be the best, which makes it easy to socialise off the pitch too.
What impact has your recent knee injury had on you?
First of all, you realise that your health is the most important thing of all, no matter what. That keeps me focused. It helps me deal with disappointment, when I didn't play as well as I hoped or after losing a match. At the same time, you really get to know your own body. You know how you should feel prior to a match. That's really useful to me. And, I have to say, being so fit now and being able to make a difference, it's fantastic.
Together, you and Georginio Wijnaldum have scored 53 goals for the Oranje; how do you explain that?
Gini has a great goalscoring capacity and running ability. And he knows when to be in the box. That's very important for the team. Of course, I have played with him in the past, at PSV Eindhoven, so we know each other very well.
What do you think about taking on the Czech Republic next?
I know they're very intense. I haven't come up against them for a while – I think 2015 was the last time for me. They've never been an easy team to play against, so we know it will be tough. We have to give the full 100% if we want to win. We're planning to do that, but it certainly won't be plain sailing.
Do you have a feeling that this could be your year?
It's logical [that people say that] when your results are good in a tournament. But I keep saying that we have to take it one game at a time. Of course, we have big dreams and that's fine. Yet it's important to focus on only the next game. We did that in the group phase and we're doing it now. Nothing has changed for me.Download the EURO 2020 app!