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As the World Cup draws to a close and teams, players, coaches, pundits & fans alike reflect on what was and what could have been, we at Outside of the Boot under our Talent Radar feature recognise the best young players at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The eligibility criteria for this list are all those players who were 21 and below at the start of the 2013/14 season (taken as June 1st 2013).
What was expected of him? Memphis Depay was one of many young players named in Louis Van Gaal’s initial 30 man squad but one of very few that survived the cut. He wasn’t expected to play much of a role, if any at all, with most expecting him to take his role on the bench.
How did he perform? As expected, Memphis Depay didn’t feature in the opening game against Spain but made his way into the second game against Australia. With Netherlands coming under unexpected pressure, Memphis Depay was thrown on at half-time and settled well into the game. Van Gaal’s tinkering took Bruno Martins Indi out, and Memphis Depay was deployed into Netherlands’ attacking third. His long range effort should have been saved by Matthew Ryan but an error from the keeper saw Depay emerge as the super sub and the hero for the Dutch, securing a 3-2 victory.
There was no place in the starting line-up again for Depay as the Dutch faced a much fancied Chile side in a match being fought for top spot in Group B. With the game at 0-0, Depay came on with 20 minutes to go. Fellow substitute Leroy Fer had scored within a minute of coming on and the control shifted in the favour of the Oranje. A quick attack from Robben took the game to Chile and a perfect ball for Depay presented the youngster with a simple finish and secured another victory for the Dutch.
The Round of 16 game saw Depay again come off the bench. With the Dutch struggling to find a way through for a third successive game during Depay’s introduction, Van Gaal would have expected the PSV youngster to make his mark again. A resilient Mexican defence prevented any real threat from the Dutch as Depay failed to stamp his attacking authority on the game (as did much of Netherlands’ attack). Depay didn’t have much of a contribution in the side turning the game around to a 2-1 win. Nevertheless, he had convinced Van Gaal of his play over the three previous games and this earned him a first start of the World Cup against Costa Rica.
Van Gaal went for a particularly attacking line-up and approach but the minnows from the CONCACAF region were repeatedly proving their worth. He didn’t do much wrong but neither did he really make an impact before being subbed off in the last quarter of the match. He wouldn’t feature in the crucial game against Argentina as Netherlands crashed out on penalties. Memphis Depay has since been nominated for FIFA’s official Hyundai Young Player Award. He again didn’t make the starting line up for the 3rd/4th place play-off vs Brazil.
Depay showed this ability to play down the wings, displaying a good show of strength and burst of pace. His composure is something that has grown over the past few months, this was evident at the World Cup. Defensively he offers next to nothing but that’s a factor that is to be built with experience. Having said that, it is that attacking impact that makes him one of the best young players in Europe, with the ability to shift wings and roles adeptly. One would hope his ability to play through the centre does improve, making him a perfectly versatile player and potentially develop into an active striker.
More from Talent Radar: Memphis Depay was featured in the Talent Radar list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch out for in 2014, coming in at #4 in our list of forwards & wingers. His performance against Heracles for PSV Eindhoven also earned him a spot in our Talent Radar Team of the Week n the second week of February, after having missed out on a number of occasions. We expect him to regularly feature in the new 2014/15 season as well.
Scout Report: “Comfortable with both his feet, he has a really lethal right foot, which he uses to his advantage by cutting inside and having a go from distance (hence the comparison with Arjen Robben). Another advantage of his style of play is it creates space for the left-back to make overlapping runs and put in dangerous crosses.” You can read a detailed Scout Report on Memphis Depay here.
What does the future hold for him in the national team? It goes without saying that Memphis Depay is seen as the man to carry forward the mantle of the Dutch attack. Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar are all on their way into the last phase of their careers as a role in the national team is rather minimal now. The onus is on Depay to establish himself, like Bruno Martins Indi & Stefan De Vrij have.