Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has had a tough time of late, with a range of injuries keeping him on the sidelines for prolonged periods. However, the 30-year-old Dutchman has returned to fitness to see out the season with his club and link up with his country ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. The forward’s performances have steadily improved since his return from the treatment table, with his goals helping Schalke to an automatic qualification spot for the UEFA Champions League.
With the domestic season now over, the Hunter is fully focused on helping the Netherlands to World Cup success in Brazil. And his confident and optimistic attitude towards this summer’s tournament certainly shone through in an interview with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: You’ll be battling fellow forward Robin van Persie for a starting berth in the Dutch national team this summer. How do you see your chances in this duel and do you think you’ll get much playing time at the World Cup?
I just hope that I can play as much as possible. Van Persie obviously operates as a forward too, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be a direct duel between the two of us. It's equally feasible for our team to line up in a formation that accommodates two forwards, for example.
The Netherlands were involved in the 2010 Final. What can we expect from the Elftal in 2014?
The defeat in the 2010 Final was a disappointment for us all. We’d obviously hoped to become world champions. But our focus now needs to be directed towards this summer’s tournament. Anything is possible in football and every match is different! So we need to be 100 per cent focused on the 2014 World Cup and not look back at what happened in South Africa.
The Netherlands will face Spain, Chile and Australia in the group stages. How satisfied were you with the draw?
They’ll certainly be exciting games. Spain have a very strong team and Chile are often regarded as dark horses. They showed that they are a very strong team and that they can play at a very high level when they faced Spain at the 2010 World Cup. We should also be careful not to underestimate Australia. In any case, I’m excited to see who'll make it through the group stages. Of course, I believe in my team and I’m convinced that we can make it to the latter stages in Brazil. Having said that, we've got some very strong opponents in our group and so we need to give 100 per cent in each game.
I believe in my team and I’m convinced that we can make it to the latter stages in Brazil.
What are your team’s strengths?
We have a lot of experienced players who are currently plying their trade at some of Europe’s top clubs and playing top-quality football. But it’s also a real bonus for our team that we now have some young players involved in the squad too. I think that this mix of experience on the one hand and youth on the other has the potential to take our team to the next level.
Who are your favourites for the title?
Brazil and Argentina. Both countries have strong teams full of outstanding players. They won’t need to adapt to the South American climate either. Other teams, such as those from Europe for example, will first have to get used to the conditions and this could have a slight impact on their performances.
What are you expecting to happen at the World Cup in Brazil?
First and foremost, of course, for me to give my absolute best and play as often as I possibly can. I hope that my team can show just how well we can play football and that we have the desire to win each individual match. Of course, the ideal scenario would be to return home as winners, but it’s important we don’t look too far ahead. We need to just focus our attention on the group stages and take things one step at a time.