Many football fans' abiding memories of Giovanni van Bronckhorst will come from the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa. The tournament saw the Netherlands captain hit a stunning strike against Uruguay in the semi-final before finishing his playing career as a runner-up in the Final.
Since hanging up his boots, Van Bronckhorst has been diligently working away on his coaching badges, combining a number of roles at Feyenoord under the stewardship of Ronald Koeman. The Dutch legend relinquished the former Rangers, Arsenal and Barcelona player of his responsibilities with the reserve team at the end of last season, to allow Van Bronckhorst to focus solely on first team duties.
FIFA.com caught up with the man affectionately known as Gio to see how his side's preparations for the upcoming Eredivisie season were going, and to quiz him on the current Dutch side's chances of being in Brazil next summer.
FIFA.com: How are you finding life in your new role?
Giovanni van Bronckhorst: It’s good, it’s something different from being a player. After stopping my career I went straight into coaching and I did all my badges with UEFA. It’s good for me to have the experience now with Feyenoord as assistant to Ronald Koeman and to work with the team. There are some players here that I have played with and it’s a good role because you’re still involved in football in another position. We are trying to play good football and to make sure that the team is ready for the games.
Are you relieved that you're now the one putting the players through their paces in pre-season?
I’m not really relieved – pre-season was always good to get in shape for the season and you work hard. It’s very important for you and for your season. In that way, I’m not missing it but now as an assistant you have to make sure that everyone is doing their work and doing their part to make sure the team is ready for the start of the season and also for the whole campaign. It’s quite an important month at the club and so far we have done well with no injuries, which is very important, and everything is going as planned.
Your attempt at getting into the UEFA Champions League and automatically into the UEFA Europa League last season did not go to plan. How far do you see the club going in Europe this season?
Of course we have to overcome one round to get into the group stages [of the UEFA Europa League] but we only played four games in Europe last year. We played against [Dynamo] Kiev and Sparta Prague, both of whom are very strong opponents. I think we did well, we missed a bit of luck at home against Kiev. Hopefully this year we can qualify and play at least eight matches in Europe because for the development of our players it is also good to experience two games in a week against strong opponents. We’re going to work hard to make sure we reach the group stage.
Do you see it being another battle on the domestic front?
We have to keep going and work hard, like last season, to try to be champions. Last year we were close, in the latter stages we dropped some points and this year we have to work hard. We almost have the same players as last year so hopefully we can push the other teams more to become champions. Of course it’s difficult with Ajax and PSV Eindhoven who are very strong opponents with a lot of good players. Twente and Vitesse are also quite good so it’s going to be a real fight for all of those teams to become champions.
There have been some impressive players coming through at Feyenoord. Who should our readers look out for next season?
[Bruno] Martins Indi, [Jordy] Clasie and [Stefan] de Vrij all made their debut in the national team, which is an honour, and as a club we’re very proud of our players getting into the Dutch team. In that way we have to keep on developing our talent and hope that these players will continue to develop next season and become better players. If you work hard you can see the development of the players going well. It’s a big incentive for you to keep going with the work.
What is the feeling around the club like when these players come back from international duty?
It’s good because the level is very high. All the international players who are involved in the set-up, like [Robin] Van Persie and [Arjen] Robben, those are players who are playing at the top level of European football. Of course for them it is good to see the difference in level and see the level that they have to work hard for. In that way it is good for the development and eventually they will make good progress to become top international players themselves.
Bruno Martins Indi, who you have mentioned, has played at left-back for the Netherlands along with Jetro Willems and Daley Blind in this FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. As a former left-back yourself, which one stands out for you?
Those three players are three different types of left backs. Bruno Martins Indi is more defensive, he’s very good - a very solid defender. Blind is a midfielder and he’s good on the ball, very much a footballing left back and Jetro Willems is very dynamic and pushes forward a lot. Those three players are all good and are all options for Louis Van Gaal. I think he will play whichever left-back dependent on the opponent.
A pair of wins in the next two games [Estonia and Andorra away] for the Netherlands will see them reach the finals next summer, do you think that is achievable?
They are well on their way to getting to Brazil and it’s good for the team to be involved again in the World Cup, especially after 2010 when we were close to becoming champions and now it’s another chance for us to win it. It’s going to be hard, playing Brazil and Spain, especially with Brazil having home advantage.
What chance do Louis van Gaal's men have of going one step further than your team?
The Netherlands are definitely one of the teams who can win it, but I think there are eight teams who can win the World Cup. It’s just a matter of having a bit of luck on the day. Holland always have a chance, but we have to see how the form is.
Finally, what are your personal memories from South Africa?
I have good memories, of course reaching the final, Uruguay in the semi-final. One of the best goals I have scored [against Uruguay] - a strike that people will always remember me for. Of course I wanted to be a champion but overall I have a very good feeling about the World Cup in South Africa, it will always be special for me.