Since UEFA EURO 2008, the 30-year-old Hamburg defender has enjoyed unshakeable first-team status, forming part of the Netherlands rearguard that conceded just two goals in eight matches on the road to South Africa. His partnership with fellow centre-back Andre Ooijer provided the sturdy foundations upon which the Oranje built their unbeaten run through 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying.
Called up just three times in the qualifiers for Germany 2006, the graduate of the youth system at Willem II – which he joined at the age of nine – has added a whole new dimension to his game since moving to the Bundesliga that FIFA World Cup summer. HSV splashed out €6m to end his injury-blighted two-year stint with Co Adriaanse’s Alkmaar and he has since emerged as one of the club’s most consistent performers, wielding an influence in the dressing room to match his commanding displays on the pitch. It did not take long before Hamburg tied him to an extended deal running until 2012.
Handed his first Oranje cap in a 3-0 away win over Andorra in November 2004, he participated in the 2006 FIFA World Cup but had to wait until Switzerland and Austria two years later to really cement his place in the side, with the quarter-final loss to Russia his biggest disappointment on the international stage. No Netherlands player contested more minutes during the South Africa 2010 qualifiers.