World Cup - De Jong impresses but Dutch recall hinges on role in side

Back in his native Netherlands with AC Milan, Nigel de Jong put on a display of defensive competence that underlined his role as a brilliant enforcer on Tuesday but a lack of forward movement did little to enhance his claim for an international recall.

World Cup - De Jong impresses but Dutch recall hinges on role in side

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Nigel de Jong

De Jong appeared like a wall across the Amsterdam Arena as he provided cover for the Italian side's defence, halting attacks or tackling with ruthless efficiency in the 1-1 Champions League draw against former club Ajax.

On Wednesday, the Dutch media described him as a "windshield wiper" offering lateral protection in front of the central defensive duo of Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata.

The solid performance came just days before Dutch coach Louis van Gaal finalises his squad for World Cup qualifiers against Hungary and Turkey, where the 28-year-old is hoping for a return to a side already qualified for next year's finals.

He was named in a preliminary squad last week but whether he can force his way back into the starting line up for the first time since recovering from an Achilles injury, remains unclear.

Van Gaal has previously gone on record as saying he would prefer to use a defensive midfielder who could also provide assistance going forward rather than just being an extra lock on the defensive door.

"Last night's game will have shown Van Gaal little that fits in with his tactical plans," Dutch daily the Algemeen Dagblad said.

De Jong's role at his Italian club precludes him from any adventure and whether van Gaal believes he can play differently in a Dutch shirt will only become clear next weekend when the side host Hungary in their penultimate World Cup qualifier.

That match will also be at the Amsterdam Arena where de Jong was hailed like a returning hero by a partisan crowd of more than 50,000 on what he said would be an emotional night.

"I ran around here for a long time. It is where I grew up," he said prior to the match referring to his early career at Ajax.

Tuesday's game was only his ninth after an extended spell on the sidelines after rupturing the tendon in a Serie A match against Torino last December, just five months after joining Milan from Manchester City.

De Jong, who won international notoriety for a kung fu-style challenge on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final that went unpunished by referee Howard Webb, claimed the last of his 67 caps in a friendly against Germany last November.

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