John Heitinga’s showing at South Africa 2010 will probably best be remembered for the red card he received in the Final against Spain. Yet, it is unfair that the Dutch defender is synonymous with a moment of indiscipline.
The former Ajax and Atletico Madrid star has been outstanding for Everton this season in the heart of the defence alongside Sylvain Distin, with many tipping him for the club’s ‘Player of the Season’ award.
Heitinga’s displays for the Netherlands have also been imperious since the last FIFA World Cup. Barring injury, he will almost certainly be a part of Bert van Marwijk’s squad for UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland/Ukraine where he believes that the Oranje have the talent to go all the way.
FIFA.com: How do you think the Dutch team is set for the EUROs? You were very close at the FIFA World Cup 2010™.
John Heitinga: We’ve got the same team. Hopefully everybody will be fit and the squad will be the same. The most important thing is that the main players are there and fit. Then, we can beat all the other teams.
Do you think that, after Spain, the Netherlands are the team to beat?
Of course we are one of the favourites, but Spain is No1, Germany, I think, are No2 because a couple of months ago they beat us 3-0 in Hamburg. We’re doing well, especially in the last couple of years, and our team is still the same.
What do you make of the attacking talent that you have in the form of Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben?
If those players are on form, then it’s hard to stop them. The other seven in the side know what to do and play in our way, so that the top four can do what they want.
We are one of the favourites, but Spain is No1, Germany, I think, are No2 because a couple of months ago they beat us 3-0 in Hamburg.
Do you want to erase the memories of losing in the FIFA World Cup 2010 Final?
No we need to learn from that, I think it was a good experience. It was a big tournament and not many players have played in a World Cup final. It’s a lesson that we need to take with us to the Euros.
What do you think of your UEFA EURO 2012 group?
It’s unbelievable. We’ve been drawn with Denmark, Germany and Portugal. We need to win the first game against Denmark and if you can reach the quarter-final in this competition, you can go on to win the tournament.
In your last outing, you defeated England 3-2 at Wembley. You must have been pleased with the performance?
We are pleased with the win but we were not happy with the result. At 2-0, the game was over and then we gave two goals away and that is not how we normally play. In the end we got a good goal, scored by Arjen [Robben], and won. To win at Wembley you have to play well and I think for most of the time we were the better team.
Was it a lapse in concentration that caused England's fightback?
It wasn’t concentration. I think it was more that after the substitutions we were not sticking to our formation. I think the two goals were due to miscommunication. It was friendly game and we need to learn from it. When the EUROs start we can’t make the same mistakes because when it’s 2-0 with five minutes to play we need to keep the clean sheet and go away with a victory.
There’s been an upturn in form at your club team Everton since the New Year, what’s been behind it?
The most important thing is confidence. We started well in January, we beat West Brom away and we had a couple of good performances against Fulham in the FA Cup and then we also beat Manchester City and Chelsea. It’s important for us, and especially for the home fans that we win those games. In the past it didn’t matter who came to Goodison, most of the games were won at home. The first couple of months in the league were not our best and after January we started to play better and we’re getting some points now.
Are you enjoying the extended run at centre-half?
That is my best position. The manager and everybody else knows that centre-half is my best position and I think I’ve done well there in the last couple of matches for Everton.
Are you looking forward to a potential return to Wembley with Everton in the FA Cup?
Yeah, I can’t wait to play the quarter-final replay gainst Sunderland and hopefully we’ll win and then play here. It’s an unbelievable and beautiful stadium. A few years ago, Everton reached the final and played against Chelsea. Hopefully we can do it again.