Football Features

Where are they now? Netherlands’ Under-21 Euro 2007 winning side

By Squawka News

Published: 15:56, 8 April 2019

The Netherlands are pretty handy at football, aren’t they? Sorry, make that totaalvoetbal. Apologies, no offence intended.

However, the Oranje haven’t ever managed to etch their name on a World Cup trophy. Despite their ridiculously infectious brand of free-flowing, attacking football that they’ve played in the past, they’ve come up short in the final. Three times. To rub more salt in the wound: they failed to qualify for last summer’s World Cup.

Even when the Dutchmen deserted their roots and went kung-fu on Spain in 2010, they didn’t quite cut the mustard. So close, but still so far. Mind you, who could actually get close to La Furia Roja at the height of their powers? Mighty Switzerland, that’s who.

Yet there’s nothing flukey about the talent that the Netherlands produces. At least one player whose talent has been forged in Holland is constantly in the “world class” bracket. They’re there or thereabouts. Up there with the best.

The same can be said of their youth. They haven’t got a sparkling record but you can be damn sure that they’ve unearthed some diamonds.

The last Netherlands U21 side that went one better than the seniors and actually claimed a piece of silverware was back in 2007 at the European Championships.

Foppe de Haan’s ranks eased past Israel, saw off a Portugal side that contained the likes of Hugo Almeida, Joao Moutinho and Nani before battling to a draw against Belgium that secured top spot in the group.

Up next was a semi-final against England that ended in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. And I do mean a dramatic penalty shoot-out. How predictable. It finished 13-12. Anton Ferdinand failed to hold his nerve and the Three Lions were out.

The Netherlands marched on and smashed Serbia in the final courtesy of 4-1 scoreline. Cue talk that their current crop would go on to become world beaters and land the prize that had eluded the European nation for oh so long.

Well, we know that they haven’t achieved such a feat, but where are they now? Did they come close to living up to their hype, or have they drifted into mediocrity?

Goalkeeper: Boy Waterman

Age at tournament: 23

Current club: Apoel

It’s somewhat fitting for a Dutchman to have his name bursting its banks with water references in my book. The 6ft 2in goalkeeper started his career at Heerenveen but he moved to AZ a couple of months before the tournament began.

However, he’s struggled to become first choice anywhere that he’s been throughout his career and also took in a spell in Germany’s second tier with Alemannia Aachen. A move to PSV Eindhoven offered a reprieve but proved to be short-lived. He then lasted two years in Turkey with Karabükspor and currently plays for Apoel.

Right-back: Gianni Zuiverloon

Age at tournament: 21

Current club: Dehli Dynamos

The Rotterdam-born full-back played for Heerenveen until 2008, when his chance to hit the big time arrived. The defender signed for Premier League outfit West Bromwich Albion for £3.2m, but suffered relegation to the second tier in his first season.

He stayed put but fell out of favour and spent a spell on loan with Ipswich Town before moving to Mallorca to secure regular game time. But he made only a handful of appearances before returning to Heerenveen on loan.

He then signed a three-year permanent deal with Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag and departed for Spanish outfit Cultural Leonesa in 2016 before joining Delhi Dynamos last summer.

Centre-back: Arnold Kruiswijk

Age at tournament: 21

Current club: Vitesse

We’ve got another nomad on our hands here. The central defender joined Anderlecht at the end of the 2007/08 campaign after making 150 appearances for FC Groningen, but he endured two unsuccessful seasons with the Belgian side.

He was reunited with former Groningen coach Ron Jans at Heerenveen in 2010 but is now at Vitesse, behind a number of pesky Chelsea loanees in the pecking order, probably.

Centre-back: Ryan Donk

Age at tournament: 21

Current club: Galatasaray

Top name. We’ve got a lot of time for onomatopoeic names. Several clubs were interested in the defender’s signature a year before the tournament and he decided to sign for AZ Alkmaar as he was keen to play regularly rather than risk a move to apparent suitors Ajax and PSV.

He moved to West Bromwich Albion on loan for a season in 2008 but his best years were with Club Brugge. He then joined Turkish side Kasımpaşa in 2013, Galatasaray in 2016 and – after struggling for game time – Real Betis on loan. He’s back in Istanbul now and has played 16 times this season.

Left-back: Erik Pieters

Age at tournament: 18

Current club: Amiens (on loan from Stoke City)

Admit it, you weren’t even sure he was Dutch, were you? Pieters is one of those players that plugs away, does his job and doesn’t get much media attention for his trouble.

The 30-year-old was a regular for Stoke City between 2013 and 2018 but joined Amiens on loan in January. He also has 18 caps for the senior national side.

Defensive midfield: Hedwiges Maduro

Age at tournament: 22

Current club: Retired

Captain for the final in the place of Ron Vlaar, the defensive midfielder began his career at Ajax but was snapped up by Valencia in 2008. Countryman Ronald Koeman was at the helm of the Spanish side at the time, though he was sacked soon after.

Yet Maduro still managed to carve out regular opportunities under new coach Unai Emery. Just about. However, an ankle injury ruled him out of the majority of the 2011/12 season and he joined Sevilla on a free transfer.

Unfortunately, the Andalusian side then decided to hire Emery and the midfielder was sent on his bike to Greek side PAOK. One year later, though, he joined Groningen but will see his contract expire after June. He since transferred Cypriot side AC Omonia in 2017 before retiring a year later.

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Centre midfield: Royston Drenthe

Age at tournament: 20

Current club: Sparta Rotterdam

What a player this boy looked back in 2007. He was crowned player of the tournament and looked unstoppable. His arrogance and ability on the ball was striking and if anyone from this side was going to make it, it was him.

Real Madrid signed him for £14m after the tournament but his five years at the Bernabeu did not go to plan. He fell out of favour, clearly had a bad attitude and didn’t score his first goal for the club until 2010.

Drenthe had several spells on loan but constantly flattered to deceive. He looked certain to claim a contract at Everton, but went off the rails and was dismissed from action by David Moyes. He joined Russian side FC Alania Vladikavkaz after his deal expired. Smart move? No.

He joined Championship side Reading, and also had brief stints with Sheffield Wednesday and Kayseri Erciyesspor, before winding up his career in Abu Dhabi with Baniyas.

In July 2016, after a single season playing in the gulf state, the former Real Madrid winger was left unable to find a club and announced his retirement, declaring that he is “no longer a footballer” and instead embarking on a music career. Though he has since joined hometown club Sparta Rotterdam.

Centre midfield: Daniel de Ridder

Age at tournament: 23

Current club: Retired

The only player in the squad that was plying his trade outside of the Netherlands at the time of the tournament, other than Newcastle United goalkeeper Tim Krul, endured a nomadic career.

De Ridder? A nomad? Come on, he’s only played for Ajax, Celta Vigo, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Grasshopper Club Zürich, SC Heerenveen and RKC Waalwijk. Sorry, my mistake. Oh, and Cambuur Leeuwarden. That’s where he was last seen playing before retiring.

His very first season for Ajax saw De Ridder make 30 appearances. He never surpassed that total for any of the other clubs he featured for. Work-shy?

Attacking midfield: Otman Bakkal

Age at tournament: 22

Current club: Retired

The midfielder scored his nation’s first goal in the final against Serbia and played for PSV Eindhoven for nine years before moving on in 2012. He didn’t take a step forward, though. He joined Dynamo Moscow but only made a few appearances for the Russia side before returning to his homeland with Feyenoord.

His one-year deal with the Rotterdam club was allowed to expire in 2014 and following two years of being a free agent, he announced his retirement at the age of 31.

Bakkal is best known as one of the first victims of Luis Suarez’s tendency to sink his teeth into opponents on the pitch. In November 2010, the then Ajax captain and star forward was banned for seven games for biting the midfielder.

Suarez would later chomp into the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini and Branislav Ivanovic prior to joining Barcelona from Liverpool. For all his early promise, for many Bakkal has been reduced to being a footnote in the bizarre career history of the Uruguayan.

Centre-forward: Maceo Rigters

Age at tournament: 23

Current club: ZSGOWMS

If you finish as top scorer in a tournament like this, most people want a piece of the pie. Rigters scored four goals in just five matches throughout the competition, including one in the final, to edge past Leroy Lita in the Golden Boot stakes.

Unfortunately, such a tally was only marginally surpassed during his entire club career. Rigters signed a four-year deal with Blackburn Rovers immediately after the tournament but made little to no impact at Ewood Park.

He left after seeing out his contract in 2011 and signed for Australian club Gold Coast United, where he only played for one season. The definition of a flop. Since 2014, he has been playing amateur football and currently turns out for Amsterdam minnows, ZSGOWMS.

Centre-forward: Ryan Babel

Age at tournament: 20

Current club: Fulham

Along with Drenthe, Babel was the man in demand after the Netherlands’ victory. He won the Man of the Match award in the final and also scored his side’s second goal, just after the hour mark.

The forward’s speed was frightening. He scared the living daylights out of defenders at the tournament and Liverpool looked to have pulled off a coup when they secured his services in the summer of 2007.

However, he blew hot and cold at Anfield for several seasons and struggled to live up to his hype. Deemed surplus to requirements on Merseyside, he joined Hoffenheim in 2011 and moved back to the club where his career began, Ajax, a year later.

Spells with Kasimpasa in Turkey, Al Ain in Abu Dhabi, Deportivo in Spain and Besiktas in Turkey followed before making a return to England with Fulham. He’s been a busy boy.

Ah, what could have been…