Kuyt looking to take club form with Liverpool into Euro 2008
Saturday, May 24. 2008
NOORDWIJK, Netherlands — Dirk Kuyt has scored crucial goals in Europe for Liverpool this season. Now he wants to do the same for the Netherlands at the European Championship.
With Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and Klaas Jan Huntelaar of Ajax expected to be coach Marco van Basten's starting forwards, Kuyt will have to fight just to get on the field at the tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
But if Van Basten is looking for a striker on a hot streak, Kuyt could be his man.
Kuyt, who has six goals in 35 appearances for the Netherlands, scored five times in the Champions League this season, including a goal in every knockout round.
The burly blond striker looked to have given Liverpool a decisive lead in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals against Chelsea with his 43rd-minute goal. But teammate John Arne Riise headed a cross from Salomon Kalou into his own net in injury time. Kuyt also scored a crucial away goal to earn Liverpool a 1-1 draw at Arsenal in the quarter-finals, and scored the first goal in Liverpool's 2-0 win over Inter Milan in the second round.
It was an emphatic way of grabbing the attention of Van Basten, who dropped Kuyt from his squad for the team's two friendlies this year.
"The coach said he was picking other players. I had to show him he was wrong," Kuyt said at the Netherlands' training camp, close to the North Sea coastal village of Katwijk, where his father was a local fisherman.
Van Basten rewarded him with a recall when it counted - for Euro 2008, where the Netherlands is in a tough group with world champion Italy, France and Romania.
"During the winter, he didn't play his best matches. That can happen to all players," Van Basten said. "He fought back and now his level is good for our team."
Kuyt said the turning point that dragged him out of his slump came when Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez tweaked the club's stuttering forward line, putting captain Steven Gerrard in a deep striker's role and moving Kuyt to right wing.
"It's gone well for me," Kuyt said. "Sometimes, things just fall into place. I had the feeling when it started that it was temporary, but it went so well, we carried on."
And Kuyt believes his adjustment to the Liverpool style of play gives him an edge as he fights for a spot in the Dutch starting lineup.
"The way we play now for the Netherlands is very similar to the Liverpool system, and I think I have shown I can play there," he said.
But it is not only his recent scoring streak that Kuyt believes makes him a key for Dutch success at Euro 2008. He also poses problems for attacking defenders and is famous for running himself ragged chasing down the ball.
"You have players who can turn a match with one touch and players who perform in service to the team," Kuyt said. "I have no problem playing for the team."
Kuyt said his 2006 move from Feyenoord, where his never-say-die attitude made him a fan favourite, to Liverpool had also helped his game.
"I feel really strong - that is the advantage of playing in the Premier League," Kuyt said. "It is the physically toughest league in the world and you only get better and stronger from playing there."