Van Ginkel: In good shape

We can only speculate whether Marco van Ginkel, had he not suffered serious knee injury four games into his Chelsea career near the start of last season, would have been at the World Cup semi-finals this week as part of the Netherlands squad.

He had won his second cap for the Dutch national team last August in a friendly against Portugal, having made his debut the previous November against Germany in another friendly.

Given the chance to impress at such a high-standard as the Premier League and Champions League last campaign, the 21-year-old might have figured in Louis van Gaal’s plans for Brazil. Instead he spent many months rehabilitating from cruciate ligament surgery and watched Wednesday’s night match against Argentina in the company of fellow young compatriot Nathan Ake, not long after the two had completed their first Chelsea pre-season training session.

‘They did well,’ is Van Ginkel’s assessment of the Dutch team’s month in Brazil.

‘Penalties is 50-50 and they lost, but overall it was a great tournament but not a final.

‘The expectation was not really high in the country beforehand. We had a difficult group, Spain, Chile and Australia, but I think after the first game when we won 5-1 against Spain, everybody had more confidence.

‘I was on holiday for that game and there were a lot of Dutch people there and we were thinking wow, what is going on, and it was really amazing!

‘We won all the group games and also after the group stage we won against Mexico and Costa Rica, so we did well but after all that we have nothing.’

However as Van Ginkel points out, although the Dutch squad had no shortage of experience up front with names very familiar to all from their time in Europe’s big leagues, there is plenty of potential too throughout the squad with many who travelled to the World Cup being young players still plying their trade in the domestic league.

It was to a pre-World Cup training camp back in May, consisting of the best players from the Dutch top-flight which had finished ahead of other leagues, that Van Ginkel was invited to join by Van Gaal when he lost one player to injury.

It meant our young midfielder missed the Chelsea Under-21 team’s league play-offs, having played for them in March and April as his first match action since his surgery, but it was still beneficial.

‘We trained hard, twice a day and I had just come back from the knee injury and the level was okay for me,’ he recalls.

‘If you train twice a day a few days after each other the knee gets stiff, but it was good for me after the injury that I had to report with the national team. It was good to be there but I didn’t make it to the 23 [-man squad].’

Van Ginkel

Instead Van Ginkel continued on in May and June with a so-far very successful European Championship qualifying campaign with the Dutch U21 side for whom he is captain. They have won five and drawn one match.

‘I think we have to win one more game and we are qualified for two play-off games to reach the finals,’ he says. ‘We are scoring a lot of goals and we are in good shape.

‘In the summer I did some extra work as well, especially on my right leg for the knee and now it is much better.

‘I am feeling good. I took a rest for maybe one week and then I started doing some exercises.

‘Pre-season training is going good now so hopefully the coming weeks will go well also. It was not the best for me to get injured so soon after joining a new club but it happens. Now it is better and hopefully this is a good year for me.’

There will be no shortage of opportunities for young players like Van Ginkel in the pre-season fixtures which begin next week, and one match will take him back to the club that was his home before Chelsea bought him last summer.

‘At the end of July we play Vitesse and it will be good to go back, now in the other dressing room,’ he acknowledges. ‘I am looking forward to this game.’