Sao Paulo: Stefan de Vrij may not be one of the most notable characters on and off the field, but the 22-year-old defender is one of the key players of World Cup semifinalists the Netherlands.
De Vrij is thoroughly enjoying his first major tournament, his first World Cup, reports Xinhua.
"It`s great to be able to play on such a stage, it is a dream for every player," he said.
"When you`re as young as I am it`s great to already be able to do this on my first tournament."
De Vrij was born in Ouderkerk aan den IJssel Feb 5, 1992, and joined the youth ranks of Feyenoord at the age of 10. In his early years, De Vrij was not among the best of his teams and every year it was uncertain whether he could continue at the Rotterdam based club.
At an elder age, De Vrij started to develop more rapidly and he even was one of the players to skip the Feyenoord Under-16 team to play in Under-17 immediately.
In 2009, he signed a professional contact and that same year he debuted in the first team. De Vrij turned himself into a regular starter in the following season and now has already 135 matches in the Dutch league behind his name.
Louis van Gaal started his second reign as Netherlands with a friendly against Belgium in August 2012 (4-2 loss) and since that time De Vrij was also a regular part of the Dutch squad.
In the build-up to the World Cup, coach Van Gaal had an important role in mind for De Vrij, as one of central defenders in the 5-3-2 system. In the first friendly against Ecuador in May, he even took over the captain`s armband for the first time after Robin van Persie was substituted and Arjen Robben was absent.
De Vrij is not only a good defender and an imperturbable rock, but also a good passer, which makes him a modern player. He made up rapidly for his lack of international experience at this World Cup playing against the best strikers of world.
In the first World Cup match against Spain (5-1 win), he caused a penalty with a challenge on Diego Costa. He made up for that mistake, if the harsh penalty can be called like that, by adding his first goal for the Dutch team, followed by solid matches against Australia, Chile, Mexico and Costa Rica.
With his performances in Brazil, De Vrij attracted the attention of major European clubs. After Lazio declared their interest in the Dutch defender before the World Cup, Manchester United, the next club of Van Gaal, are now reported to be willing to make an offer. His contract at Feyenoord expires in 2015.
De Vrij stated he want to focus on the World Cup now, instead of talking about a possible transfer. The next challenge for the 17-time international will be a tough one, Wednesday in Sao Paulo, Argentina and Lionel Messi. However, the Dutchman is not afraid of the Argentine star player.
"Argentina have a lot of quality up front, but it is a challenge to play them," De Vrij said.
"I am looking forward to it. Whether I get to play Messi as a direct opponent, I do not know. He often drops into the midfield. Gonzalo Higuain could be more up front. Nevertheless, I will meet Messi, a great challenge."