Van Nistelrooy taking nothing for granted
Van Nistelrooy has established himself as the Netherlands` main striker
Having scored the opener in the Netherlands' 3-0 win against Italy on Monday, Ruud van Nistelrooy feels he is returning the faith coach Marco van Basten has placed in him – and is excited about what he and his team can achieve at UEFA EURO 2008™.
However, Van Nistelrooy admits he had no idea how the Netherlands would fare until taking the field against the Azzurri. "We went into that match not really knowing our own strength," the Real Madrid CF striker told euro2008.com. "The Italy game was always going to be a test of how far we'd come, and it turned out to be above expectations. But it was also a deserved win, looking back at how we played. And for me, it was a great start to score in the first match. That gives me confidence for the rest of the tournament. It was fantastic to unload all the emotions afterwards."
Van Basten faith
The 31-year-old is especially happy his working relationship with Van Basten is prospering, after a 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign where he was dropped for the Round of 16 tie against Portugal. He subsequently did not play international football for a year. Van Nistelrooy is now back as his country's No9 and wants to score goals for the man who has put his trust in him. "It's nice there are no issues although obviously I have to keep performing. But I've never been a person to take things for granted. I am used to having to perform at my clubs as well. I'm eager to take responsibility, eager to pay back that faith. I've got a good relationship with Van Basten – we left the past behind and acted as adults about it. We have taken a new path together and that works very well."
The Oranje have changed their traditional 4-3-3 formation into an effective 4-2-3-1 system after discussions between Van Basten and senior players – and Van Nistelrooy believes it has helped their cause. "There's more movement, it's less predictable for our opponents and we are less position-bound. We've got our duties, but have more liberty to make moves up front and that's more difficult to defend against. I think we have found the right mix." The former Manchester United FC marksman also reckons that the support given to the Netherlands by their fans has made a difference. "We feel the support. When we enter the stadium and see the orange masses, it gives us that little extra. Hearing that 50,000 people came from the Netherlands to see the match at three different squares in Berne says how the team is in the heart of the people and that gives us a lot of strength."
Nothing achieved yet
Van Nistelrooy, though, has a word of caution ahead of the team's second Group C game against France as expectations rise in his homeland. "We feel good, of course, but realise we have to start from scratch again. Everyone must bring the same performance to the table. We cannot allow ourselves to take it easy for a moment because we will pay for it. France are very tough opponents with players who've been performing at big tournaments for years allied to some top young talents. They just need to score that one goal to break loose, so it's important for us to prevent that. We hope to reach the next stage but that's still so far away, we aren't even thinking about it. We will take each match as it comes."