Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has never been one to protest by refusing to play as several of his compatriots have done down the years, preferring instead to resorting to quiet diplomacy to smooth things over with the man in charge of the 'Oranje'.
Not for nothing is the 37-year-old Manchester United guardian known as 'Papy' to the rest of the squad as drawing on all his experience and 126 caps he offers his advice to the younger and less experienced members of the team.
“He is much more than that,” purred Dutch coach Marco van Basten.
“Because he is a guide, an advisor to the younger players, a confidant to others and my right hand man on the pitch. It is a blessing to have such a player in the team,” gushed van Basten.
Van Basten, who steps down to take over at Ajax after the championships, has certainly taken on board advice from van der Sar, principally in arranging a truce and a recall to the Dutch colours of striker Ruud van Nistelrooy after the latter and the coach had a total breakdown of relations during the 2006 World Cup finals.
Van der Sar, whose save from Nicolas Anelka's spotkick in the Champions League shootout gave United the trophy, also was one of the senior players, who persuaded van Basten to change his playing formation last Spring.
The former Ajax goalkeeper may have won his first ever penalty shootout but it is the memory of two of those losses – losing to Brazil in the 1998 World Cup semi-finals and to Italy in Euro 2000 semis – that he would like to set right here.
“But I don't live in the past. Only the future interests me,” said van der Sar, who enjoyed one less than happy spell with Juventus.
His immediate concern then is for the Dutch to carry on in the same vein of form against 2006 World Cup finalists France on Friday as they did in trouncing world champions Italy 3-0 in their opening Euro 2008 match.
“It's a huge challenge,” said van der Sar.
“But I am sure that France, no more than Italy were are delighted at the thought of meeting us.
“Our team is an adult one. All the pivotal players are two years older than we were at the the 2006 World Cup (where they went out to Portugal in an ill-tempered second round match).
“That is important. Also the majority of the players are playing abroad, with big clubs in major leagues. Players like Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Robin van Persie or Dirk Kuyt have come on fast in the past few months.”
In no small part thanks to 'Papy'
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