The 20-year old had an electrifying season with PSV coming into this World Cup which saw him become one of the hottest prospects in Europe. The Moordrecht native’s performances has seen him compared to two time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, the ultimate compliment for any young aspiring player. Depay contributed 12 goals and 8 assist for PSV last season, helping to cement a 4th place finish. However it was by no means a smooth season for Depay, his performances were very inconsistent, and his impact would range from being monumental one game to non-existent the next, these performances highlighted that PSV were dealing with an immensely raw talent, one that still has a lot to learn. And for many Dutch fans, this consistency was a bit of a concern going into the tournament as no one was quite sure which Depay would turn up in Brazil, but fortunately with Van Gaal in charge the tournament was one to cherish for the talented youngster.
Memphis Depay went into the tournament as the 2nd youngest player in the Dutch squad, with him being just one day older than Feyenoord defender Terrence Kongolo, at just 20 years of age. Being so young and going into a World Cup would be a daunting concept for a lot of players his age, but Depay has a strong-minded attitude, he is always up for a challenge and will do anything to reach the top. These attributes along with his exceptional technical ability and ferocious speed meant that he was the perfect secret weapon for the Oranje.
With this in mind, it was no surprise to see that Van Gaal opted to not to start Depay for the first few games. The system the Netherlands used, the 5-3-2, meant that the Dutch sat back in a lot of the games and let the opposition control the game, but this allowed the deadly trio (RVP, Robben and Sneijder) to be given as much freedom as they wanted and also left a lot of space in behind opposition defences for these three to exploit. As well as the three, Depay was also given a lot of attacking freedom when introduced, this accompanied with weary legs from the opposition enabled Van Gaal to get the most out of Depay, it was the perfect conditions for him to enter the field. So in the match against Australia, Depay’s first appearance in the competition, the youngster came into the game at half-time with the score tied up at 1-1, the game was poised perfectly, despite the Socceroos taking the lead 10 minutes into the second-half, Depay was the player to step up to the mark when his country most needed it, the explosive winger was heavily involved in the Dutch equaliser, slipping Van Perise through to bring his side back into the game. After this Depay grew in confidence as he began to ask the Australian defence questions, they couldn’t deal with him as in the 68th minute he gave them the knock-out blow, smashing the ball in from 25 yards to seal a dramatic 3-2 win.
Depay’s heroics in the game against Australia gave him a huge boost in confidence for his next outing against South American underdogs Chile. Although the former Sparta Rotterdam player did not get as much time on the field as he did against Australia, his late inclusion was again significant as he left his mark on the game once again. When Depay entered the game the score was level at 0-0 but with Chile looking burnt-out Depay was allowed plenty of space which he used to his full advantage, his first notable bit of action in the game was when he got in behind the Chile midfield and let loose a 25 yard thunderbolt that was destined for the back of the net if it wasn’t for a brilliant save from Claudio Bravo. Subsequently the corner Depay had just won resulted in the opening goal of the match as Leroy Fer headed the ball into the corner of the net. Then as the Dutch started to dominate Depay was hungry to get his name on the score sheet, and in the 92nd minute he got exactly that as he sprinted 60 odd yards to get on the end of an Arjen Robben cross and tap the ball in from 2 yards out, the goal highlighted Depay’s tremendous determination and never-say die attitude.
The next game, the round of 16 clash against Mexico, saw Depay once again come off the bench, this time though his impact was not as significant; but that’s not to say he wasn’t effective. The Eindhoven winger came into the game early on in the second half, replacing Verhaegh as the Dutch looked to change their shape to change the outcome of the game. By bringing on Depay the Dutch were a lot more dominant which began to translate into chances. Although Depay didn’t offer as much as we’ve seen going forward, he still was able to complete all his take-ons and put in a few decent crosses. However despite not being so damaging going forward, he was able to put in a solid defensive shift, making two crucial blocks late into the game as well as 90th minute clearance.
The quarter-finals saw Depay get given his first start in the competition after putting in some impressive performances. Unfortunately for Depay the performance wasn’t a particularly memorable one, Costa Rica’s deep line as well as their two banks of 5 made it extremely difficult for Depay to find pockets of space. However he almost added another assist to his name as he played an almost identical pass to the one against Australia to Van Persie but this time the Manchester United man could not convert. After this moment early on in the game Depay seemed to drift in and out of the game, fullback Gamboa did an excellent job at keeping the youngster quiet and after 75 minutes Depay was taken off for what was to be his final appearance at the World Cup.
Although Depay did not feature in the last two games that is not to take anything away from the brilliant campaign he had. The 20-year old proved that he is one of the biggest talents not only in Europe but worldwide, his nomination for Best Young Player Award underlines how great he was in Brazil. He has given the Oranje hope that they will be able to replace talismanic figures such as Van Persie and Robben, contributing 2 goals and an assist in your first World Cup all at the age of 20, is something that can only be done by those destined for greatness. His campaign has seen his name be engraved in the memories of all football fans, launching himself into stardom.
Stats courtesy of Squawka.
Originally posted on www.football-oranje.com