The all-action Netherlands forward tells EURO2020.com that their round of 16 rivals "have never been an easy team to play against".
Memphis Depay beaming at the end of the group stage
Memphis Depay beaming at the end of the group stage
POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Memphis Depay is still very much a talismanic figure for the Netherlands. The top scorer in the squad with 28 goals, he was involved in every one of his side's efforts against Austria and North Macedonia as the Dutch won UEFA EURO 2020 Group C with a game to spare.
The 27-year-old forward spoke to EURO2020.com about everything from his role on and off the pitch to his recovery from a cruciate ligament knee injury and his thoughts on the Oranje's chances of going all the way.
What were your group stage highlights?
Depay enjoying Dutch mentor role
The opening game [against Ukraine], of course, with the exciting finale. Our first three points; a home game with your own fans; the atmosphere in the stadium after not having played at a tournament for so long; new, young players being given a chance – and the feeling of beginning to grow into the tournament. So many great things.
How do you see your role in this team?
I try to use the qualities I have to create chances. If you get the opportunity to score, sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don't. If you do so regularly, you become important for the team. But it's also very important that we can still be effective even if I'm not involved. You see that, for example, Denzel [Dumfries] is really dangerous. That's fantastic.
Can you help your younger team-mates?
I think so. I have a good relationship with the younger players but also with the older ones. I'm right in the middle. When it's the older players against the younger ones in training, I'm still with the youngsters because I only turned 27 in February. Yet when I look at guys like Ryan [Gravenberch], who's 19, and Jurriën [Timber] and Cody [Gakpo], they're young.
Netherlands vs Czech Republic: EURO 2004 flashback
I was at [the FIFA World Cup] in 2014 and I was the same. So I know a little about how they're feeling. We also have the same interests, such as music and having the drive to want to be the best, which makes it easy to socialise off the pitch too.
What impact has your recent knee injury had on you?
First of all, you realise that your health is the most important thing of all, no matter what. That keeps me focused. It helps me deal with disappointment, when I didn't play as well as I hoped or after losing a match. At the same time, you really get to know your own body. You know how you should feel prior to a match. That's really useful to me. And, I have to say, being so fit now and being able to make a difference, it's fantastic.
Together, you and Georginio Wijnaldum have scored 53 goals for the Oranje; how do you explain that?
Gini has a great goalscoring capacity and running ability. And he knows when to be in the box. That's very important for the team. Of course, I have played with him in the past, at PSV Eindhoven, so we know each other very well.
Netherlands vs Czech Republic: 2015 thriller
What do you think about taking on the Czech Republic next?
I know they're very intense. I haven't come up against them for a while – I think 2015 was the last time for me. They've never been an easy team to play against, so we know it will be tough. We have to give the full 100% if we want to win. We're planning to do that, but it certainly won't be plain sailing.
Do you have a feeling that this could be your year?
It's logical [that people say that] when your results are good in a tournament. But I keep saying that we have to take it one game at a time. Of course, we have big dreams and that's fine. Yet it's important to focus on only the next game. We did that in the group phase and we're doing it now. Nothing has changed for me.
England face Germany in the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 – all you need to know.
England take on Germany in the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 in London on Tuesday 29 June at 18:00 CET.
What's the story?
EURO '96: The full England-Germany semi-final shoot-out
The latest chapter in one of international football's great rivalries takes place at Wembley Stadium – just as it did 25 years ago when Gareth Southgate's saved spot kick helped Germany squeeze past England on penalties at EURO '96.
An equally tight affair may again be likely given that England's group games produced just two goals, a stalemate with Scotland sandwiched between 1-0 wins against Croatia and the Czech Republic.
Germany have been less predictable. The 1-0 defeat against France and 2-2 draw with Hungary will not be viewed with fondness but, in between, they produced a scintillating display to down Portugal 4-2. History suggests they bring their A game when faced with the Three Lions.
England vs Germany: who will reach the quarter-finals? 🤔
Where to watch the game on TV
Fans can find their local UEFA EURO 2020 broadcast partner(s) here.
EURO 2000 highlights: England 1-0 Germany
England: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Foden, Mount, Sterling; Kane
Misses next match if booked: Foden
Germany: Neuer; Ginter, Hummels, Rüdiger; Kimmich, Goretzka, Kroos, Gosens; Havertz, Müller, Gnabry
Misses next match if booked: Ginter, Gündoğan, Havertz, Kimmich, Sané
Simon Hart, England reporter: England's history in final tournament knockout matches against Germany – no wins since 1966 – is well documented. So too Gareth Southgate's own personal history, with that EURO '96 semi-final penalty heartache. Yet sit down with any of the young players in Southgate's squad and it fast becomes apparent that this history means nothing to them, raising the hope they can go out and play without fear. Factor in their defensive solidity and recent Wembley record (13 wins from last 15) and there really is reason to believe.
Philip Röber, Germany reporter: The general feeling is that Leon Goretzka can add something to the team which was missing against Hungary, but Joachim Löw is not known for changing his starting XI to suit public opinion. I expect Germany will take a more risk-averse approach than in their group stage matches, mindful of England's pace up front. They may switch to a back four. Oh yes, and they have also been practising penalties during training in recent days.
View from the camps
Foden talks hair, stickers and penalties
Gareth Southgate, England manager: "They've been in an incredibly tough qualifying group, and the quality of the matches and the standard of the opponents has been really high so that will have prepared them for big matches straight away. They also have huge big match experience so they are a very accomplished team. It's a really, really tough game for us."
Phil Foden, England midfielder: "I'm hoping, come the Germany game, we can just express ourselves. With the attackers we've got, we can really hurt them, so hopefully we turn up. We're as good as anyone on our day. Obviously, I wasn't born when all of this rivalry was going on. We're a new team now and we want to create our own history. You can't think too much about what's happened in the past. We're just going to focus on the game and create our own future."
Joachim Löw, Germany coach: "It's all or nothing from here on in. We have been erratic, but we know that we can be strong if we manage to get a few things right on the pitch. If we don't, it gets tricky for us. It's going to be a completely different type of match against England and we should benefit from that. England are at home and they will have to attack. It will be more open than against Hungary, but we must absolutely be on our toes."
Thomas Müller, Germany forward: "I think that both teams have enough confidence to say: 'It is our turn today. We will win and reach the next round.' That's what makes this so interesting. The decisive aspect will be to avoid conceding. We've not managed to keep a clean sheet enough in the recent past. We can only be successful if we function as a unit. We don't have individuals who outshine everyone else in the world of football. But we have a lot of players who understand that they can make an important contribution to the collective."
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