Drenthe driven for Oranje gold
© AFP

Short, muscular and with a fearsome turn of pace, Royston Drenthe will be the raider out wide as the Dutch start their Olympic campaign against Nigeria on Thursday. Born to Surinamese parents in a tough area of Rotterdam, Drenthe's attitude and approach to football is full of passion and fired by a little boy's big dreams.

"Man, it's hot here," the 21-year-old dynamo, who just completed his first full season with Real Madrid, told FIFA.com in Tianjin. "We're getting used to it, though, and the feeling in the team is good.

"I think we're going to do it," he concludes with a mischievous smile complete with two gold teeth and framed by an audacious mane of thick dreadlocks. The former Feyenoord fan favourite speaks with a patois that evokes the streets of Rotterdam and his Surinamese roots.

Coiled and eager, young Royston ('Ricky' to his mates) is the image of determination and almost hyperactive enthusiasm. Though his first season in Madrid failed to bring a consistent starting spot at the Bernabeu, his blinding speed and industry turned more than a few heads.

"I learned a lot in my first season with Real," he said, before adding about his painful decision to leave his beloved Feyenoord: "When Real comes calling you don't say no."

Along with the steep learning curve he faced upon his arrival in Madrid, Drenthe will have the opportunity to learn from a true Dutch master at these finals. With Oranje legend Roy Makaay, 33, in the team, Drenthe sees another opportunity to improve his game and to propel the Dutch towards their first Olympic gold.

"I used to watch Makaay when I was a little boy, and I never dreamed I would get to play with a legend like this," Drenthe said while members of the Dutch press buzzed in search of interviews at a media outing in Tianjin. "I had the chance to play with him at Feyenoord and now we're wearing the orange shirt together. It's amazing.

"We're not little boys, we U-23 guys play for big clubs you know," insisted Drenthe, obviously referring to himself, Ryan Babel of Liverpool, Valencia's Hedwiges Maduro and a host of Eredivisie all-stars in the team. "But a guy like Roy (Makaay) will stop you in training and say 'hey, slow it down' or 'no, do it this way,' and you can't help but be grateful for it."

Nigeria await
The first test for Foppe de Haan's prodigiously talented European champions is a classic meeting with a dangerous Nigerian outfit. They will also face the USA and Japan in Group B. "We want to win that first game," said Drenthe with an air of palpable desire." But we know Nigeria is a team of big boys and big names and they will be tough, there is no doubt."

He takes tremendous pride in his Surinamese roots, "carrying the torch" as he calls it. But Royston is keen to see the team play in that prototypical Dutch style. "Nigeria will play physical, but we just need to keep the ball on the ground, get it out wide, move it around and break them down that way, the Dutch way."

Occupying the left flank, Drenthe is given license to roam by his coach and will have the freedom to cut inside and head toward goal if the opportunities arise. "I want to play well," the pacy player concluded with a big, inviting grin. "I want to score goals and make my teammates happy, make the people back home happy - all that good stuff."

With enthusiasm like that, not to mention the bags of talent at their disposal, who would argue against a likely golden run for the Oranje?