Family affair for Dutch hero Van Amersfoort

Scoring the only goal of the Netherlands' win against Russia meant "a perfect evening" for Pelle van Amersfoort with plenty of family members cheering him on.

Netherlands striker Pelle van Amersfoort with friends and family in Katerini
Netherlands striker Pelle van Amersfoort with friends and family in Katerini ©Sportsfile

"It was a perfect evening," said Pelle van Amersfoort after he secured the Netherlands a 1-0 win over Russia in their opening Group B fixture at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, in front of many familiar faces.

Van Amersfoort's header in the 44th minute earned the biggest cheer of the night in Larissa, although it was already clear before kick-off that he was one of the main attractions. The sound of the giant Dutch forward's name on the public address system was met by raucous cheers from a sizeable group of Oranje fans.

"Yes, I had a lot of family and friends, but mostly family here," Van Amersfoort told UEFA.com. "It was nice to be able to score for them. [Having them here] gave me motivation of course, but even if they aren't here, I know that they're at home watching me on the television – and scoring is always good for me."

Watch the Netherlands defeat Russia
Watch the Netherlands defeat Russia

The sc Heerenveen striker can count on his family's backing for the duration of his stay in Greece too. "They are not all going to stay for the whole tournament, but others will come," he said. "When somebody goes out, somebody new comes in so I'll always have a lot of support. That's what family's for. That's what you want."

The flip side of their presence could be seen in the opening exchanges in Larissa, however. The Netherlands took their time coming to terms with a well-organised, dynamic Russia side who pitched camp in the Dutch half for much of the first ten minutes. The pressure appeared to be getting to Van Amersfoort and his team-mates.

"I don't know, maybe it was nerves," Van Amersfoort suggested. "It was not good, that's for sure, but we survived and then we did a lot better so it's all good in the end.

Pelle van Amersfoort heads the winner against Russia
Pelle van Amersfoort heads the winner against Russia©Sportsfile

"They say that a good beginning is half of the work; now the other countries have to catch us. We have a lot of confidence now and that's important because if you lose the first match, you must win the second and the third. But now we've won the first and that will give us a boost. It was a perfect evening."

One more of those on Friday against Germany and the Netherlands will have booked their place in the semi-finals prematurely, and Van Amersfoort will have extended his family's vacation in Greece by at least three days.

"We've been getting lots of messages and photos of people back home watching his match on the television. He is the star of Heemskerk – the whole village is watching him," said his father Hans. "Unfortunately we have to go back on Monday to work, but his girlfriend and her family are coming out to take our place and they will be staying here for the duration – he's always going to have a lot of support here."

Pelle van Amersfoort with his friends and family in Katerini
Pelle van Amersfoort with his friends and family in Katerini©Sportsfile
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