WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) – Netherlands striker Wout Weghorst is still hoping to make it into the starting lineup at the European Championship even if he has developed a reputation as the team’s pinch-hitter, he said on Sunday.

Weghorst came off the bench to sweep home the winner for the Dutch in their opening Group D match against Poland in Hamburg last Sunday, reprising his stunning entry at the World Cup in Qatar 18 months ago when he scored twice in the last 10 minutes against Argentina to force their quarter-final into extra time and eventually a penalty shootout.

But the 31-year-old believes he has more to contribute to the Dutch side even if coach Ronald Koeman told him before the tournament in Germany that he would be used an impact player off the bench.

“A starting berth is what you ultimately want,” Weghorst told a press conference.

“That is my goal. I believe strongly that I can be important for this Dutch team. I have qualities to make this team better.”

After a tepid showing from the attack in their second game against France in Leipzig on Friday, Weghorst might well get a chance against Austria in Berlin on Tuesday.

“We beat them at the previous European Championship (in Amsterdam) and took the three points, but they have certainly improved since then,” he said of their upcoming opponents, who are one point behind the Netherlands in the group standings.

Once Euro 2024 is done, Weghorst has been linked with a possible move back to the Netherlands with Ajax Amsterdam after spending last season on loan from Burnley to Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim.

Asked whether he was busy negotiating his club future, he said: “That plays in the background. But two months before this tournament, I mapped out a path that would ensure that I would be in top shape during these weeks and my focus is on that.

“It would be very stupid if I were suddenly busy with all kinds of other things. It’s about the European Championship for now … but something good will certainly come afterwards.”

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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