Only a couple of hours to go and Oranje will start its first game versus Germany at the EC in Israel.
And while the big guns are experiencing Oranje-mania in Indonesia and Sneijder might be on his way to Chelsea, and Babel on his way to Turkey and Stekelenburg signed for Fulham and Robben might be going to Liverpool, and the KLM didn’t get the best mileage out of sponsoring Oranje….
We focus on the Under 21s against Germany at the Israel based EC.
Always a heated game. Always more at stake than just the win.
At the recent press conference in Tel Aviv, skipper Strootman admitted that this Jong Oranje does not have any excuse for a non-performance. “The KNVB has organised this so well. Everything one needs, is arranged. There is no excuse why we wouldn’t perform at our best. And with the players we have, we should do really well here.”
Coach Cor Pot had to chuckle. The German Football Association said that this EC is a great learning experience for the players. “This would have been said by us ten years ago. Now we are the ones saying: developing players is nice, but you also got to teach them to win. For us, the result is highly important. Playing nice, we know we can do. Now we need to win and play nice. Germany has been copying our way of working off late, but they might end up without silverware, as a result.”
Luuk de Jong, playing his football in the Bundesliga, was part of the senior squad in Poland/Ukraine. Is this a step back? “Of course not! This is my youth group. I was a third striker in the senior squad. Here I have a different position. This is a major trophy for all of us. A major way of showing yourself. This is massively important for us!”
Spurs player and German skipper Lewis Holtby has no fear. “I know Holland well. I lived only 20 km from the border and took my bike into Holland a lot. Obviously, I know the players and I know they are strong, but we fear not. We need to be careful in the one-to-one situations, as they are lethal in those situations but we will play our own game. Don’t worry.”
At the press conference, Cor Pot did try to put a lid on the optimism. “We may have 12 A internationals, but for most, that means only two or three friendlies. Most players in the German squad already played heaps of games in the Bundesliga. That means probably more.”
Pot has his line up already but refused to share. He did say this: “I have a creative midfield (Clasie, Maher, Strootman) and a more physical one ( Fer, Van Ginkel, Strootman). For Germany, I have chosen a combination.” As Strootman and Maher seem certainties, it may be that Fer will play in Clasie’s place (but in Strootman’s role).
Jong Oranje hasn’t beaten Jong Germany in 20 years, by the way. In 12 times, Germany won 5 times, Holland only 3. The last game we played against them was two years ago in Sittard. Germany won 1-3. Fer, Clasie, Zoet, Nuytinck and Blind were all part of that team.
Jung Germany is trying to remove the stain of two years back when they failed to qualify. Germany can not use the A internationals like Holland can. Players like Gotze, Draxler, Kroos, Gundogan and Ter Stegen are all not available (injury or called up for senior team trip to US).
Jordy Clasie doesn’t share the optimism with the media and supporters. “Hoho, we are in a very tough group! Germany and Spain are top nations. We might also be, but we still need to play for it.”
Clasie is normally not too comfortable in the heat. The Feyenoord midfielder is happy with the time he was given to get used to the circumstances. “I need to watch the heat. I cramp up easily. I had it in Holland even, in the Vitesse game. I am glad we play in the evenings. In the day, it is simply too hot.”
Clasie will only have three weeks of holiday after this tournament and he is also on Van Gaal’s list to come to the WC in 2014. A new rhythm for the youngster. “At the moment, I am not at all thinking about holidays. I am a pro player. I want to play. It’s that simple. Your career is relatively short and I am so grateful I am where I am. And the expectations are high and that is cool. The pressure is on from minute one. A key game. Losing the first game brings you immediately in trouble. But, despite all that, getting to the finals is not going to be that easy. I know Germany well, they are good, despite not having all their big guns. Spain is obviously strong and Russia is an outsider. I rate Italy high too. It will not be easy to reach the finals.”
Luuk de Jong plays his football with Borussia Monchengladbach and fears losing against Germany. “Simply because they will make me wear a Mannschaft Jersey then… That is not cool… I am so ready to play that game. This has been in the back of my head for a while and the last weeks we prepared so well. Tactical talks, practice, medical preps, nutrition. I think we are ready.”
The striker performed amazingly with Twente and Jong Oranje but his first season in Germany was a stop-start affair. “It wasn’t easy. Some ups and downs. But I think most young players experience this when moving to a new club. I am confident my second season will be better. But for now, I focus on the Germany game.”
He knows his opponents well. “Of course. And they are very good. But so are we. We need to careful in possession, as their turn around is quick. And we want to go full throttle but we need to pick the right moments.”
De Jong’s brother Siem is with LVG and the big squad in Indonesia. Luuk really wants to bring home the silverware, in preparation for a great World Cup campaign with his brother. “It’s time for two brothers in Oranje again”, he winks. “I would be disappointed if we don’t reach the finals, sure. You do need some luck to win this, as always. But it does look great on your resume, doesn’t it? We will definitely give it our all.”