Van der Vaart hungry for seconds
Van der Vaart enjoys a laugh on the training ground
Rafael van der Vaart was five years old when he first lifted the UEFA European Championship trophy. Now he says he has waited long enough to do it again.
The Netherlands playmaker first got to grips with the Henry Delaunay trophy after the national team's triumph at EURO '88. The silverware made a tour of the country in the aftermath of the victory in Germany, including a visit to the amateur De Kennemers club where Van der Vaart was already playing. Because the boy was sick on the big day, De Kennemers arranged for the cup to be taken to Van der Vaart's trailer-park home the next day. The Hamburger SV captain still remembers the special event. "It was 20 years ago, a long time ago," he said. "It is time to do it again. Obviously we want to win this tournament."
The side led by Marco van Basten – whose goal in the 1988 final was "a bit lucky", according to a smiling Van der Vaart – have staked a strong claim as worthy successors to that vintage generation. However, the emphatic successes against Italy, France and Romania in Group C will count for nothing unless Russia go the same way in Saturday's quarter-final at Basel's St. Jakob-Park. Van der Vaart was adamant about this. "Until now, I think we have played a really good tournament, but if we lose this weekend, we are out," he warned. "But at least we start with a lot of confidence."
'Really good football'
The former AFC Ajax starlet featured in the Netherlands' opening two victories in Berne before being rested against Romania. That break might have given him a better chance of taking in Russia's eye-catching Group D defeat of Sweden on Wednesday. He certainly sounded impressed when speaking about Guus Hiddink's team: "Russia play really good football, unbelievably fast, and Andrei Arshavin is a really good player, a star. They attack very well so we really have to be careful." If not, Van der Vaart's wait could run and run.