De Jong targets stunning return

Nigel De Jong is hopeful of completing a miraculous recovery from injury to play in the Netherlands’ World Cup semi-final against Argentina tomorrow.

The AC Milan midfielder was ruled out of the tournament after suffering a groin injury during the last-16 victory over Mexico.

But he has recovered far quicker than expected after deciding to stay with Louis Van Gaal’s squad for moral support, and now says he has a chance of playing against Argentina in Sao Paulo.

“We will see, I will do everything in my possibility to start this game as it is only one game to the final,” he said. “We are ahead of schedule, I hope to be fit for this Wednesday.”

And if De Jong does recover he will be just one of the Dutch players who will be looking to right the wrongs of the 2010 World Cup.

De Jong was fortunate to escape a red card for a kung-fu style challenge on Xabi Alonso in the final of that competition, which Spain won thanks to a late goal from Andres Iniesta.

Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt and Robin Van Persie also all played in that game, but De Jong believes it would be unwise to focus too much on the past and instead wants to concentrate on the future — particularly when it comes to the accusations of Robben’s diving.

The Bayern Munich man’s theatrics have become a running theme in this World Cup, particularly after he won the decisive last-minute penalty against Mexico in the last 16.

But De Jong believes claims that Robben dives are “unfair” and says the 30-year-old is simply too good to be stopped by legal means.

“He is one of our main guys on the team,” said De Jong. “He has got an extremely good quality, that is dribbling, and just goes at defenders with pace.

“A lot of defenders can’t stop that so the only way to stop him is to make a foul. That why [you saw] the fouls on him against Costa Rica and the bookings, it is not a coincidence.

“Of course we’ve got him we’ve got Robin, we’ve got Wesley, we’ve got myself, we’ve got Dirk, we’ve got experienced players and mixed with the generation that is coming now and the balance is okay in this team.

“Do we think about 2010? Everybody asks me that question and it is normal but what has been in the past is in the past.”

And De Jong admits that in Louis van Gaal, the Dutch have a not-so-secret weapon.

Van Gaal has enjoyed a wonderful tournament, culminating in his decision to change goalkeepers just before the penalty shoot-out against Costa Rica.

De Jong for one is not surprised at Van Gaal’s success.

He added: “You’ve seen his resume — he is a fantastic coach and over the years he has got a lot of experience in these situations.”


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