Edgar Davids thinks Netherlands can reach final but wary of France: “Even a pitbull like me couldn’t stop Mbappé”

Edgar Davids thinks Netherlands can reach final but wary of France: “Even a pitbull like me couldn’t stop Mbappé”
Edgar Davids thinks Netherlands can reach final but wary of France: “Even a pitbull like me couldn’t stop Mbappé”

His glasses are still screwed onto his face. Its line is (almost) as slender as in the time of its splendor. At 51 years old, Edgar Davids exudes the same charisma when he is comfortably seated in an armchair in a dressing room in Sclessin as he does on a football field. On the sidelines of the Circus Cup, we were able to speak for a few minutes with the Dutch legend about the ambitions that the Netherlands can have during the Euro, his memories of the derby against the Red Devils and his love for Kevin De Bruyne.

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The Netherlands

The Dutch can count on an impressive talent pool. Elements like Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo, Xavi Simons and even Memphis Depay form the backbone of the basic eleven aligned by Ronald Koeman. However, defeats against several big European names (France, Croatia, Germany) revealed an impression of worrying feverishness. “We lost against France during qualifying, but we are still talking about the vice-world champions. It’s the absolute best! The most important thing for us is that our team forms a real group during the tournament. The Netherlands look like my Ajax from 1995 who won the Champions League. We had very good players, without having world-class elements, but we formed an unrivaled team. This is what allowed us to achieve great results.”

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The Dutch’s first mission will be to get out of a tricky group. Poland can put on a big performance at any time, while Austria gave the Red Devils a hard time during qualifying. “First place in the group? France would have to give us a gift, otherwise we have no chancesmiles the former midfielder. The Netherlands will have to grow as the tournament progresses, otherwise it will be very complicated for them. Normally, qualifying for the round of 16 should not pose a problem. For the future, I want to be optimistic. I think the fans would already be happy with a semi-final and an attacking style of play, but, in my eyes, it’s the minimum. Reaching the final seems achievable… if the players form a real collective on the pitch.”

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I would have loved to play with De Bruyne, this guy is incredible.

The bet is daring, because, in recent decades, the Netherlands have often failed at the semi-final stage. Davids tasted this curse by failing three times at this stage of the competition (World Cup 98, Euro 2000 and 2004), including twice on penalties. “It’s difficult for any team… except for France apparently (smile). There is such competition, it all depends on the shape of the day. In 2000 we played a great match against Italy but we missed two penalties and our tournament was over. It’s not enough to want to win, other factors come into play.”

His favorite

Davids points to a favorite for this European tournament: France. “It seems obvious when you add up the talent and experience of this team.”

The architect of this success is Didier Deschamps, with whom the Dutchman formed the Juventus midline for a season. “Tactically, he was already very strong, but being able to transpose this expertise as a coach is never easy, because this profession is really special. But I have observed that, since the start of the year, his team’s results have been less good and even a legend like him is subject to the obligation of results.he continues. Didier can count on Mbappé, an incredibly phenomenal talent (sic). To stop him, you have to put in physicality, intelligence… and hope that he has a bad day.”

Davids could have been a formidable opponent for the new Real Madrid player. Throughout his career, the Dutchman earned the nickname “Pitbull” for his ability to bite the ankles of opposing attackers. “But even a pit bull can’t stop him”he laughs.

The Red Devils

Even though he has put forward the name of France as the biggest contender for the European crown, Davids believes that the German tournament can smile at an upset. The Red Devils, for example. “Everyone always has a chance in a tournament like the Euro. Just look at the previous winners. Belgium has talent, especially with Diki, Duko… What’s his name again? Doku, that’s it! His opponents always have a hard time stopping his forward runs, but the Netherlands can also count on such players.”

On the other hand, the Dutch do not have a conductor like Kevin De Bruyne at their core. “He is incredible. I understood it as soon as I saw him play. Growing up with a guy like that must be a real joy. Personally, I would have loved to work for him so that he could benefit from maximum freedom in the field. I would have had blind confidence in him. He will go down in football history, that’s for sure. He won numerous trophies, lifted the Champions League and displayed an incredible level of play for many years. Tell me a Belgian footballer who achieved such a performance. There may be Douko (Editor’s note: he is wrong again), but he’s a different style of player.”

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I scored one of the best goals of my career against the Devils.

Despite his 51 years, Davids played with a Red Devil present in Germany: Jan Vertonghen. The two men were teammates at Ajax. “He started very young with us. He already had talent and he continued to develop afterward. He ran his boat very well. I remember a very kind and attentive boy. I’m not surprised he’s still playing despite being 37 years old. It’s always easier to extend your career as a defender, especially if you can count on good players around you.”

His memories of the derby against Belgium

Edgar Davids did not want to compare his Netherlands with Belgium. “We are very close to each other in the Fifa rankings (Editor’s note: there are four places difference), so this means that we have a fairly close level to each other. It doesn’t matter much in a tournament anyway.”

During his playing career, the Pitbull never had the opportunity to beat the Red Devils. He found himself on the field three times against Belgium, for as many draws. “It’s true that I’ve never won against you. At the time, there was a healthy rivalry between our two nations, not least because part of your country speaks Dutch. On the ground, it wasn’t bad. I felt a greater rivalry with Germany, for example.”

Davids still took part in a memorable match between the Netherlands and Belgium. On September 4, 1999, he scored his only international double against the Red Devils during a crazy match (5-5). “A completely crazy match. It was also that day that I scored a dream goal by dribbling past two or three players before beating the goalkeeper. It’s certainly one of the greatest achievements of my career. ”

The Dutchman appreciated the “football played by Anderlecht”. ©Circus

His coaching career

In 2022, Davids participated in the World Cup as assistant to Louis van Gaal, one of his “mentors”. “But I couldn’t lift the trophy”he regrets.

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A year ago, I was contacted to be a coach in Belgium.

This experience allowed him to rub shoulders with Noa Lang, who this time is not in the selection for the Euro. “I like this player. He has talent. In training, we played small three-on-three matches. It was very physical, but he always wanted to make a difference, to take responsibility with the ball. At that moment, I thought there was something special about him. I think he can play for big European teams but it all depends on Noa…”

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Since the Qatari tournament, the Dutchman has not found a small bench. “I could have coached in Belgium. I received an offer about a year ago. The name of the club? Sorry, this will remain a secret.”

He will therefore not say more, but the timing fits with the change of coach at Beerschot, who finally opted for one of his compatriots (Dirk Kuyt). “If a Belgian leader wants to hire Edgar Davids? We’ll see (smile). I have always liked your championship. I grew up in the era of the great Mechelen of Piet den Boer and Erwin Koeman and I appreciated the beautiful football played by Anderlecht.”

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