Soccer-Malen chasing starting berth as Dutch look ahead to last 16

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group C - North Macedonia v Netherlands - Johan Cruijff ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands - June 21, 2021 Netherlands' Donyell Malen reacts Pool via REUTERS/Dean Mouhtaropoulos

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Netherlands striker Donyell Malen would be disappointed not to start his country's last 16 match at the European Championship after bursting onto the tournament stage in the last two games, he said on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old made an immediate impact after coming on in the second Group C game against Austria last Thursday and started Monday's clash against North Macedonia, being involved in the opening goal of the 3-0 win in Amsterdam.

The Dutch finished top and now move onto a last 16 clash in Budapest on Sunday against an opponent yet to be decided.

"I would be disappointed if I didn't play in Budapest, that would be naturally human, right?" he told a news conference on Tuesday.

"But it is the coach who decides who plays. We still have enough training sessions in which to try and make it as difficult as possible for the trainer to not leave you out."

Coach Frank de Boer has tried several options alongside lead attacker Memphis Depay, but Malen said he was happy to wait for his opportunity.

Before the tournament kicked off, it was presumed Luuk de Jong would start but De Boer picked Wout Weghorst, after a goal-filled season in the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg and impressing in the warm-up friendly win over Georgia.

Malen has since burst through as potentially a better option.

"I think Memphis and I are a good match as players. Memphis and Georginio Wijnaldum are so experienced, those guys know what's being asked of them in the game. It's nice to be able to team up with players at that level. They help at times with positioning, when we have to put pressure and stuff like that," said Malen.

"When I made my debut, Memphis helped me a lot. That good feeling gets stronger with time, if you train more and play with each other more. There were definitely times when we both came into our own but, of course, it can always be better."

Malen scored on his debut against Germany in late 2019 but has only added one more goal in 11 subsequent appearances. However, he has started only four of his 12 caps.

"I’m proud that I was allowed to start at a European Championship," he added.

"The dream has always been there and I feel I've come far. This was my chance and then you have to take it."

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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