Jan Vertonghen cannot wait to represent Belgium against arch-rivals the Netherlands in the stadium at which he spent almost a decade. The elegant defender moved to the Amsterdam ArenA in his mid-teens, and went on to captain Ajax and win the Dutch Footballer of the Year award before joining Tottenham Hotspur.
Vertonghen skippered Les Diables Rouges *to a 4-2 victory over the *Oranje in Brussels in 2012, somehow popping up inside the box to score their final goal, but playing against them in the Dutch capital on Wednesday will be extra special to the 29-year-old.
“I wouldn’t miss the game for all the money in the world,” said Vertonghen. “Everyone is desperate to play. Me perhaps even more so, because I know many of the Netherlands players.
“I follow Ajax very closely. It will be the first time that I return to the ArenA and that gives me a very special feeling. I’ll have family and friends there watching – I’m really looking forward to it.
“There are no points at stake against the Netherlands, but we definitely want to win the match. We’ve probably never been favourites against the Netherlands. It’s therefore a challenge to us.
“We can’t underestimate the Netherlands. They still have some top individuals, but the team have been underachieving. They are in a transitional period and I expect them to be a very strong side again in a few years.”
*In top Kompany *
Vertonghen is also pleased fellow centre-back Vincent Kompany is back in the Belgium squad.
“He is absolutely one of the top players in the world in his position and a true leader, our captain. We’re glad he’s back. For the squad, Vincent remains the captain.”
Four days after playing in Amsterdam, Belgium host Estonia in their final 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier of the year. Roberto Martinez’s team head Group H, above Greece on goal difference, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina by three points.
Only Brazil (20), Germany (18), Italy (18), Argentina (16), Mexico (15), England (14), France (14) and Spain (14) have participated in more World Cups than Belgium (12).