1. Who is this guy?
Nigel de Jong is a 25-year-old midfielder for the Netherlands who, in some ways, is responsible for a a controversial shift in the Dutch national team's approach to soccer. His emergence into the national team has allowed the Netherlands’ coach Bert van Marwijk to switch to a system that uses two deep-sitting midfielders, a system far more conservative that the free-flowing Dutch style for which the nation became known.
2. How has he done in this tournament?
When available, de Jong has been a controlling presence in midfield, disturbing opponent attacks as they move toward the Dutch goal. He is, however, coming off a one game suspension, incurred after accumulating too many yellow cards in preceding matches.
3. What’s his role going to be on Sunday?
Sitting in a deep, defensive position in the Netherlands’ midfield, de Jong and partner Mark van Bommel will be the most important aspect of their team’s defense. They will be tasked with protecting a suspect Dutch central defense by breaking-up attacks before they can reach defenders John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen, their physical play to provide a nuisance to a Spanish side that is stereotyped as not responding well to contact.
4. Which opponent will be his cloest on-field match-up?
Xavi Hernandez. The Spanish central midfielder is the tournament’s most prolific passer, and if de Jong can disrupt him, it's unclear how Spain would respond. The one team in this tournament (Paraguay) that was able to temporarily disrupt Hernandez actually looked Spain’s equals for a half. De Jong can have a similar effect today.