Dirk Kuyt is one of those football players who’ll still wear a smile even if it’s pouring down with rain. And that’s what it did during Holland’s first training session in Krakow, their Polish base camp for UEFA Euro 2012. But Kuyt had every reason to be cheerful. He’s just signed a three-year contract with Fenerbahce in Turkey and, with the start of the European Championships just days away, the Dutch national squad are making steady progress.
“We’ve got a great feeling, we worked very hard at the training camp in Switzerland and after that, we had a very satisfactory week at our Hoenderloo training camp in the Netherlands as well. The results were a bit better when we stayed there. Now, we’re here, it’s raining, but I think the pitch and the circumstances are perfect for us, so we can’t wait to start.”
You’re based in Krakow, but the matches are in Kharkiv, 1,200 kilometres away in Ukraine. Does that pose a problem for the team?
“I don’t think so: these players are used to travel. For your club, you often fly to your opponent the day before the match as well. It’s more important to make sure that the accommodation is fine and also have a good training pitch.”
How much is the loss of the 2010 World Cup still a motivating factor for Holland?
“It’s very motivating. It’s also for us a very good experience and I’m sure it will help us during this tournament and hopefully we can go one step further.”
Holland have a reputation for overconfidence and perhaps infighting. There isn’t much of that this time around, is there?
“No, we know our qualities and we also respect our opponents and the Euros is about very good countries and very good teams, so as long as we keep our feet on the ground, we will be OK.”
What are your thoughts on the first game against Denmark?
“For us, the first game is the most vital one. Everyone is talking about Germany and Portugal, but Denmark have a very young and solid team and I’m sure they’ll be ready for us. And we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for them.”
You’re in group B with Germany and Portugal too. How tough do you think this group is?
“Yes, it’s really tough, but the Euros is slightly different from the World Cup, because you start off straight. And we have to win on Saturday, because the other two games will be very difficult as well."
Is it harder to win the Euros than the World Cup?
“I don’t agree with that, because countries like Argentina and Brazil are very tough. I think what people mean is that in the group stage, it’s more difficult to go through to the second round. For example in 2008, we played France, Italy and Romania and that was also a very difficult group and this time it will be the same and for me, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best and that’s what it’s all about.”
For you personally, it’s a change of club now, too. You signed for Fenerbahce in Turkey at the weekend. How do feel about leaving Liverpool?
“I had six wonderful years at Liverpool and I’d like to thank everyone for a great time at one of the best clubs in the world. But now, I felt I had to go for a new experience and I’m very glad that I’m a Fenerbahce player now.”
So, you’re quite happy to leave?
“Happy is the wrong word, you know I had a great a great experience at Liverpool, but everyone knows I didn’t play every game last season and I had the feeling I needed a change. And the people at Fenerbahce really wanted me to come over and they showed me great respect. Now, I’m making this career change, to another country, and hopefully, I’ll be very successful.”