When asked by FIFA.com to describe his style of play in just three phrases, Augsburg and Canadian midfielder Marcel de Jong chose 'team player', 'fighter' and 'powerful shooter'. A look at some of his career performances to date would suggest we can safely take his word for it.
The 24-year-old has been plying his trade with Bundesliga outfit Augsburg since summer 2010, helping the Bavarian side to promotion last season. "To be honest, I didn't know much about the club before I moved here," De Jong said. "It was only when they showed an interest in me that I started to learn more about FCA."
It didn't take long for De Jong to settle and, having firmly established himself as a first-team regular, the versatile midfielder is now hoping to help the club with the league's smallest budget to remain in the top division for at least another campaign. However, after collecting just two points from their first four games, De Jong recognises this may be easier said than done.
World Cup ambitions
"Compared with the second division, of course there are a lot more quality teams," said De Jong. "The stadiums are bigger and so is the media interest. Still, we've got great team spirit as well as the feel-good factor that came with last season's promotion, so we're convinced we can stay up."
Before he pulls on the red of FCA again in ten days' time, De Jong is hoping to help Canada move another step closer to their target of qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. "That would be a dream for me and Canada," said the former PSV Eindhoven apprentice.
The midfielder knows there is still a long way to go in CONCACAF Zone qualifying, but he and the rest of the squad are determined to make their dream become a reality. Second-round fixtures against St. Lucia and Puerto Rico are next on the agenda for the Canucks, who have also been drawn alongside St. Kitts and Nevis. "We should survive this round," said De Jong confidently.
Canada playing catch up
Indeed, on paper Canada are the clear favourites in Group D as the only team of the four to have ever qualified for a FIFA World Cup previously. However, after bowing out of the group stages of Mexico 1986 without a point or a goal to their name, the team currently ranked 102nd in the world have never managed to reach another finals.
"The development of young players isn't as good as it is in Europe," explained De Jong. "Every little boy wants to play ice hockey in Canada, not football, so there's a lot of catching up to do. It's difficult to say what needs to change. The kids need to be introduced to football and trained properly."
Despite moving to the Netherlands at a young age, De Jong chose to represent the country of his birth at international level. "It's nice playing for Canada. I'm very proud to be able to represent the national team. These games allow me to see my family in Canada again, too," explained the player, whose role model is Brazilian defender Dani Alves.
The likelihood of regular international appearances was also an important factor for the 5'9 left-footer, whose only goal in 17 caps to date came in a 2-2 draw against Costa Rica at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2009. That one was a 'thunderbolt shot' from distance, to put it in his own words, and if he can find his range again in the upcoming two fixtures, De Jong and the Canucks could be one step closer to their dream of a place at Brazil 2014.