This midweek saw our top clubs – sans Ajax of course, as they are qualified to play CL – compete for a spot in the Europa League group stages.
And bar PSV, they all disappointed.
Heerenveen played away against Molde in Denmark and lost 2-0, playing tremendously lacklustre. Coach Van Basten was furious after the game and needs to make sure his team starts to respond to his coaching.
FC Twente, so successful in the EL in recent years, lost away against Bursaspor with 3-1 despite being 0-1 up at half time. AZ, impressive last season, lost in Moscow to Hiddink’s Anzhi.
PSV had no problems “owning” Montenegro’s Zeta, winning 0-5 away. A record score for PSV in Europe, but hardliner Dick Advocaat was not impressed: “If you look at the chances we had, we should have won this 0-8, at least. We are too easily satisfied.”
Feyenoord played Sparta Prague, a strong opponent, and the visitors were 0-2 up at half time after an insecure and spineless first half of the hosts. Playmaker Jordy Clasie was man marked during the game and it took center half Martins Indi – yet again – to lead the comeback of the Rotterdam team in the second half, with Nelom scoring with a distance strike and sub Anass Achahbar scoring in the dying seconds with a sweet backheel flick. The Kuip stadium exploded, with Feyenoord at least having a chance to progress.
And Feyenoord is the last team in Holland to win a European cup. Led by Bert van Marwijk and skippered by Paul Bosvelt. Feyenoord beat PSV, Glasgow Rangers, Freiburg and Inter Milan until defeating Borussia Dortmund in the finals.
But it appears that the Europa League doesn’t hold any priority for PSV, AZ, Feyenoord and Twente, who will all rest certain players for the Eredivisie games, as these clubs focus on a position in the top 2 ( giving them a chance to play CL football). Paul Bosvelt has difficulty stomaching this position.
“Last year, with Twente vs Schalke 04, Mc Claren rested 5 starters for this game. Twente was focused on winning the title and didn’t want to give it all for the EL. Unbelievable. This strategy led to nothing. I never understood this “resting” tactics.”
“I think it’s naive, to do that. We are the only nationality to think in those terms. You need to be able to focus on more than one goal. It’s not “either or” but “and and”. This is how the big teams and the big players think. I never wanted to rest. I wanted to play! Players need to be fit, so they can play 50 games. If you play European games midweek, train less. And give it your all. If you fail, too bad. There’s always next year. But you have to go for it. You have to believe in it.”
Bosvelt was the last skipper to hold up a European cup for a Dutch club. “We didn’t start out that season thinking we’d win it. Of course not. Our group was fairly strong. When we came out we knew we had to play at least 4 massive opponents. But Rangers was doable. PSV always is doable. And Inter Milan is normally too strong for us, but once in a series of 10 games, you can win it. And you need to make sure you play that one unique game. And if you reach the finals, anything goes…”
Do you believe Feyenoord didn’t have the faith against Kiev. “I didn’t like the mentality I saw. They played as if Kiev was Barcelona or Chelsea. All that respect. Why? They didn’t need to lose against Kiev. But they want to be the underdog in Rotterdam. Always moaning about lack of funds or needing a striker. If you talk like that, lack of confidence will enter the picture. And you saw it: two players free before the goalie and they miss. It’s a mental thing. You need to be able to be 100% in the game, in Europe. We seem to lose games on mental grounds. You saw it at the Euros too. It’s part of our game. Twente lost many games in the last minutes. That is not a coincidence. This is where we need to work on.”
“By realising it. By discussing it. By using these examples and making them debatable. And by adapting to the rhythm. If you play on Wednesday, you simply train less but you use the top name players. You need to take the European competition seriously. Sometimes it seems like we are too weak, too junior. If Feyenoord plays Kiev, we have a lad like De Vrij in the back four, they have four night club bouncers. I don’t think money is an issue. I think preparation, mental coaching, focus, those things are key. Wanting it more than the others.”