Denzel Dumfries (L)
Denzel Dumfries (L)
AFP

London: The undisputed star of the Netherlands' first two games in Group C has been Denzel Dumfries. The energetic right wing-back was involved in every goal his side registered in those encounters: scoring in each match, setting up two goals against Ukraine and being fouled by David Alaba for the penalty that Memphis Depay converted to break the deadlock against Austria.

Dumfries's rise to the top has been anything but meteoric. When he was 18 – the same age at which Oranje team-mate Ryan Gravenberch had already established himself in the Ajax midfield and was representing his country – Dumfries was still playing amateur football at BVV Barendrecht.

He also turned out in two friendly matches for the Aruban national team. Giovanni Franken was the Aruba national coach at the time. "I saw in Dumfries the drive that other players lacked," says Franken. "You can tell that some people will get to the top. Dirk Kuyt was also like that."

Interestingly, I spoke to Dumfries two days after his stellar performance against Ukraine, and asked him who his Netherlands heroes were: he mentioned Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids… and Kuyt. "I enjoyed watching him play because of his work rate and how he approached the game," he said of the former Feyenoord and Liverpool winger.

Obviously, a player with Dumfries's energy and attitude could not remain undetected in amateur football forever. He moved to Sparta Rotterdam in 2014, Heerenveen three years later, and then joined PSV Eindhoven in 2018. That same season, Ronald Koeman gave him his international debut in a UEFA Nations League match against Germany.

This likeable, level-headed Dutchman with the Scottish name is now the undisputed first choice for the wide-right defensive position in the Oranje line-up. The 5-3-2 favoured by coach Frank de Boer gives Dumfries plenty of space in which to rampage forward. One suspects that his scoring and goal-providing exploits are far from over at this tournament.

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