Makaay: I want a medal
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Roy Makaay rates as an exceptionally experienced captain of the Netherlands Olympic football team. The 33-year-old striker, who won everything there is to win at club level with Deportivo La Coruna and Bayern Munich, spoke exclusively to ahead of his country’s final group fixture against Japan in Shenyang. Roy, has your foot injury cleared up now?

Roy Makaay: I have a bruised instep. It’ll take a while to clear up, and it still hurts a bit. We still have a little time left for treatment. I hope it’ll be better tomorrow, but it won’t have gone completely.

What is it like as a father figure among the youths? How important is your experience?
It’s not exactly my first tournament, and some of the lads have already played at U-23 tournaments, winning the European championship twice in a row, although a junior event is a bit different from a major tournament like this one. As captain and an experienced player, I can try and fire the lads up again if things aren’t going according to plan during a match. That’s obviously been tough so far, I went off at half-time in our first match, and I only came on towards the end of our second one. I tried to get the team going again, made sure we never gave up, and at the end of the day it worked out when we equalised. It’s left us with our destiny in our own hands against Japan.

The Netherlands started as favourites in the group, so what’s gone awry?
Nigeria are a good team and we can definitely live with the draw. We should have been two or three-nil up at half-time against the USA, the Americans didn’t create a single chance. But we let them back into it, they grew in confidence, and by the end they might have been a little over-confident, thinking they already had the points in the bag. If we’d lost, we’d have said good-bye to the Olympics.

What do you need to do differently against Japan? They’re already out of the tournament...
I hope we can get an early goal, then it should be all right. Japan will obviously be keen to prove they weren’t at the Olympics for nothing. No sportsman wants to go home on the back of three defeats. But our task is a simple one: we have to win.

Last summer you switched to Feyenoord in Rotterdam, where Bert van Marwijk was the coach. He has now taken the national helm, so will Roy Makaay resume his international career, or have you retired?
No, I’ve always been available. I didn’t have a chance under the former boss, and if that goes up by just one percent, I already have a better chance. But it’s not something I’m worrying about at the moment. My goal is to go back to the Netherlands with a medal, have a good season with Feyenoord, and then we’ll see what happens. The World Cup is still a long way off.

What do you think of the current Netherlands crop?
If you make it into the U-21 or U-23, you obviously have a decent chance of playing for the senior team later on. This is a proving ground, then you have to do it again at club level, and then Bert van Marwijk will decide whether he wants any members of this squad. Ruud van Nistelrooij has stepped down from the international stage, as has Edwin van der Sar, and the next guys are ready to step up.

How would you rate the Netherlands’ chances in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™?
We have to be aiming for a place at the World Cup. A lot can happen in the makeup of a squad over a two-year period.

The Dutch always play some outstanding football at tournaments, UEFA EURO 2008 being a case in point, but they’re often knocked out in the last eight or so. Why?
We were underdogs for this summer’s tournament in a group with World Cup finalists Italy and France, but we did exceptionally well. Holland were by no means the only group winners to lose in the quarter-finals, only Spain progressed. It’s the same as it always was: Germany weren’t good, but improved as it went on, although at the end of the day, the tournament was won by easily the best team in it. Germany never had a chance in the final. In fact, some of the German players were fairly poor on the day. If a couple of players fail to hit peak form, it’s always going to be tough against the Spanish.

Will things improve under Van Marwijk?
He’s not exactly new to coaching, he has experience from abroad with Borussia Dortmund, and he’s twice taken charge of Feyenoord, one of the top teams in the Netherlands. He’ll have a look and see who he has available, and then decide the system he wants to play. He needs to put together a good squad capable of going farther than we did at the last two tournaments.

You are now 33. What are your personal goals?
I’ve won everything there is to win at club level. I’d like to win the Dutch league title, then I’ll have a clean sweep in three countries. Naturally, I also want an Olympic medal. That’s not something every footballer can point to.