While precious few of the Netherlands' players covered themselves in glory in Sunday's opening-day loss to Colombia, young captain Oguzhan Ozyakup was always involved, working, dictating patterns from midfield and prodding for openings. FIFA.com caught up with the Dutch captain for a brief chat ahead of the Oranje's all-or-nothing second test against Gambia.
"It's never good when you lose your first game in a competition like this," said the youngster, following in Dutch idol Dennis Bergkamp's footsteps after winning a move to Arsenal last year. "Now we just need to concentrate on beating the Gambians in our next one. I think we are more used to the weather and the pitch conditions now, so that will help," added Ozyakup, from a light mid-day training session under the scorching sun in the southern Nigerian venue of Calabar.
Oguzhan (pronounced oh-zhan) is an example of a heavy injection of foreign blood currently making its way into the Dutch national set-up. Both of the midfielder's parents hail from Turkey, and the rangy deep-lying creator still feels an affinity for the land of his ancestors: "I still feel a little bit Turkish, but I am 100 per cent Dutch for the national team." He is not the only member of this Oranje side either foreign-born or with recent roots outside the Netherlands. There are players in the current Dutch U-17 squad who were born or can trace their roots back to Afghanistan, Morocco, Liberia, Portugal and Surinam.
Young Oguzhan, a peerless passer of the ball and a creative force throughout 90 minutes of the 2-1 loss to Colombia, last year managed to catch the eye of one of the most renowned talent spotters of the modern game: Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman brought the youngster into Arsenal's reserve system at the start of the previous English Premier League campaign after the player had a sparkling season with Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar. "I've had a few chances to train with the first team at Arsenal and it's been amazing to be able to run alongside such great players as Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas," admits Oguzhan, the only player in the Dutch squad to play his club football outside of the Lowlands.
Dennis and Oguzhan
The move to London has also allowed him to retrace the steps of his Dutch playing idol, Bergkamp, a true Arsenal legend and a Dutch master of the highest order. "When I was a young boy watched him [Bergkamp] play, and he was just amazing with the things he could do with the ball," said the lad known as 'Ossie' to his Gunners team-mates. "He even came back around to Arsenal last Christmas to pay a visit and I was able to meet him. It was a thrill," added the captain, so proud of his UEFA U-17 runners-up medal earned in Germany earlier this year that he has mounted it on his bedroom wall.
Even with two hours a day of compulsory schoolwork each afternoon for these mature and highly organised Dutch players, Oguzhan is focussed firmly on the football. "This is a World Cup, and a first for us. We want to do our best," said the midfielder, who scored Holland's equaliser from the spot against Colombia. "At the European championships we played well and finished second, and I think that if we play as a team here we can go far. But we will have to do much better than our first game."