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Friday, April 30, 2004 

Pierre van Hooijdonk

Pierre van Hooijdonk was back in the news on Wednesday night. The 34-year-old striker came off the bench 25 minutes from the end of the Netherlands' friendly against Greece in Eindhoven to break a national-team record.

This was his 35th substitute appearance for his country - one more than Aron Winter managed - and to mark the achievement, Van Hooijdonk scored his side's final goal in a 4-0 triumph.

Van Hooijdonk's last-minute strike arrived nearly a decade after his Netherlands debut against Luxembourg on 14 December 1994. In the intervening years, the big centre-forward has won another 36 caps but started only two games.

The reason? For all his prolific form with RBC Roosendaal, NAC Breda, Celtic FC, Nottingham Forest FC, SBV Vitesse, SL Benfica, Feyenoord and now Fenerbahçe SK, Van Hooijdonk is regarded as a pinch-hitter. To wit, a player who can break open a match when the three main strikers - Ruud van Nistelrooij, Patrick Kluivert and Roy Makaay - cannot make the breakthrough.

Not only does he offer a huge aerial threat, he can also make a difference from set-pieces. Nor it is just for his playing abilities that 'Pi-Air' is considered by many a certainty for Dick Advocaat's 23-man squad for UEFA EURO 2004™. The player, who was Feyenoord's talisman during their victorious 2001/02 UEFA Cup campaign and scored 52 goals in 61 league games for the Rotterdam side, is also a strong presence in the dressing-room.

Advocaat admitted as much after the EURO 2004™ play-off against Scotland last November. Following his team's 6-0 second-leg triumph, the coach hailed the super sub, saying: "Pierre plays such an important role in this selection. He has been busy motivating the players all week."

AFC Ajax's Wesley Sneijder was the Dutch man of the match in the latter game with three assists and a goal, and after scoring he ran directly to Van Hooijdonk to embrace him. Van Nistelrooij did likewise after his goal.

Van Hooijdonk has had other reasons to celebrate this season, registering 20 goals in 29 Turkish league appearances for Fenerbahçe, following his move last summer from Feyenoord. The veteran of the 1998 FIFA World Cup and EURO 2000™ is on song.

That fact is not lost on Advocaat, who with four top forwards available, changed his formation for the Greece match from a 4-3-3 with wingers to a 4-4-2 - a diamond-shaped midfield with an extra striker up front. "It is a pity to have four good central strikers and only play one of them," he explained. "In this formation we can play with two."

"The new formation worked very well," he continued. "We controlled the match in the first half, and in the second you could see that the Greeks could not keep up with us any more - that resulted in us converting our superiority into goals. I am very happy with that, and when we play with such discipline, we can play this system against every opponent."

Whatever the template, Van Nistelrooij and Kluivert remain the first-choice strikers, while Makaay will feature if Advocaat decides to use the latter as an attacking midfielder in a diamond. However, one thing is certain: Van Hooijdonk will be ready to reprise his role as a goalscoring substitute whenever called upon.

Source: Uefa.com


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