Dirk Kuyt drops into defense as Dutch beat Chile
SAO PAULO (AP) — To call Dirk Kuyt a utility player doesn’t quite do the Fenerbahce forward justice.
On Monday, in his 99th international appearance for the Netherlands, he was playing at left back. For the first time.
No matter. The ever versatile 33-year-old fit right into his new role as he helped shut down Chile’s free-flowing attack at the World Cup. The Dutch won 2-0 at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo to top Group B with a perfect record of three straight victories.
“I enjoyed it,” Kuyt said. “I never played in this position but the coach told me a couple of weeks ago that it could be a possibility during the tournament and I told him that I would be ready for it and I was very happy I get the chance.”
Kuyt has been a mainstay for the Netherlands team for years since making his debut nearly a decade ago.
He’s played up front as a winger, striker and in midfield, famous for his work ethic and fitness.
That was part of the reason Van Gaal put him on the left of defense against Chile in a 5-3-2 formation.
“It’s about having your team play according to its qualities,” master tactician Louis van Gaal, the Dutch coach, said.
Kuyt gives him quality where ever he is on the pitch.
Van Gaal said he decided against playing the traditional 4-3-3 formation that for years was the bedrock of attacking Dutch “total football” because his forwards would then have to defend Chile’s left and right backs and it would sap their energy.
“They couldn’t do that for 90 minutes and that means we could be outclassed,” Van Gaal said.
Enter Kuyt, who always gives his all for the team, whichever club, whichever position.
After breaking through into professional football with FC Utrecht, he made his name at Feyenoord, where he was top scorer for three straight seasons. That earned him a transfer to Liverpool where he became an Anfield crowd favorite and regular goal scorer. After falling out of favor on Merseyside, he transferred to Fenerbahce and kept playing well enough in Turkey to keep him in Van Gaal’s international setup.
A regular starter at the 2010 World Cup, Kuyt has waited patiently in the wings for his first opportunity in Brazil.
When it came, he grabbed it, giving Chile no space on the right and freeing up forwards like Arjen Robben to concentrate on creating goals at the other end.
“I think it went very well,” Kuyt said, “and hopefully I will get another chance.”