‘Playing well is important, result is more important’

‘Playing well is important, result is more important’

Frank de Boer didn’t beat around the bush during the press conference prior to Ajax – FK Jablonec. “We need to get through, that’s the only thing that matters. Through the left, right, top, bottom, it doesn’t matter.”

Jablonec is unknown to many, but De Boer now has a good picture of the Czech team. “They eliminated Copenhagen, which isn’t something to be taken lightly. They have solid qualities is the team, especially in front and at midfield. Their play is straight up, and very physical.”

Result is sacred

In order to avoid yet another European disappointment after the elimination against Rapid Wien, all bets are off according to De Boer. “If we can make it pretty, then by all means, we should. But there also comes a time when an opponent is pushing, and you just need to go for a good result. We need to make the players understand that sometimes, it can be ugly, and that’s okay. Attractive football is important, but the result is sacred. We need to find the right combination.”

De Boer re-emphasized the importance of qualifying for this second European tournament. “It’s an amazing experience for the players to travel, be confronted with different systems of play, and play games every three to four days.”

“The disappointment of being disqualified by Rapid Wien is behind us”, says De Boer. “We’re not looking back, but focusing on the present. Of course it will hurt when Champions League starts and we’re not part of it. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that we would have gone through, even if we had beaten Rapid. We would have needed to defeat Shakthar, and that wouldn’t have been easy.”

Good preparation

It is said that you can’t appreciate what you don’t know, but this isn’t true for De Boer. Ajax’s technical staff has done everything to prepare the players in the best possible way. “Our preparation is always the same, whether we play against Barcelona, Jablonec or NEC. We analyze where the threats and opportunities lie.”

Ajax plays at home first, on Thursday. The away match a week later also has no secrets for De Boer. “We always try to create a good environment. For example, we always bring along our own chef. The only thing that is different from a game against NEC, for example, is that we need to fly for ninety minutes, and then sit in a bus for ninety more minutes.”

A small pressure cooker awaits in the northern Czech Republic, says De Boer. “From what I understand, Jablonec has a nice, compact stadium, a bit like Heracles’, and a fantastic and fanatic home crowd. They’re also going to be pulling out all the stops to make the group phase. It will be a great atmosphere.”

Big step

Joël Veltman was in attendance at the press conference, too. The defender would like for Ajax to take a big step towards the next round in front of their home crowd. “The first match is never decisive, because another once still has to be played. But it would be great if we could create a good position: keep a clean sheet, and score two goals ourselves.”

Veltman is looking forward to the double header against Jablonec, even though the opponent is relatively unknown. “We’ve played great Champions League matches in previous years, but personally, I like playing in the Europa League too. Whether you’re playing NEC, Barcelona or Jablonec, it’s still football, eleven against eleven. If you love the game, it doesn’t matter who you play.”

Veltman is assured of a starting spot in the Amsterdam ArenA. De Boer has kept his selection fairly steady in the past few weeks. His team is the one to beat. “If you’re Ajax, playing against a Czech opponent, you’re always the favourite.”