‘Winning the double is our goal’

‘Winning the double is our goal’

The coaches and captains of Cup holder Ajax and FC Twente gathered on Friday afternoon in Zeist for the press conference leading up to the Cup final. At the KNVB Sport Center Frank de Boer explained that Mounir El Hamdaoui is likely to miss Sunday’s final due to injury. For both De Boer and Jan Vertonghen, the cup is of value: “the double is our goal.”

It was laughs all around at the press conference. The coaches and captains seemed relaxed going into the crucial matches for Cup and League title. Verthongen: “If I had to choose, I’d of course pick the League title plate. But I want to win the cup too. There will be no underestimation during the Cup final” the Belgian assured. “And that is to Twente's credit. They have performed very well this season. Also in Europe.”

De Boer’s battle plan is clear. “We must contain Twente’s strengths as much as possible. That’s our focus for these two matches. Then the form of the day, and also luck, will determine the outcome.” Continuing, “We always have periods within matches in which we play well. These periods need to be longer. We must become steadier in our performance. We are still too inconsistent. That is where we have ground to win. But it will be tough, certainly against a stable team such as Twente. We are confident however that both matches will end well for Ajax. Confident about the double. That is our goal.”

Except for Mounir El Hamdaoui’s absence, due to a muscle injury, Ajax is at full strength. “Mounir has done all he could to make the match, but the final is just too early for him. We also don’t want to take risk in view of the match in the Amsterdam Arena next week.” Dario Cvitanich also stepped out of practice early on Friday morning, but his injury seems lighter” said De Boer. “ He took a knock on the calf and Achilles tendon, but is available for Sunday. No problem.”

Much has been said already about the subsequent double duel with Twente, and the pros and cons to it. De Boer simply states: “If you win the cup final, you extend a psychological blow. That can be an advantage for May 15th when we decide the title. However, if you lose the Cup final, you know you cannot make a mistake again the week after. Shortly, it is hard to say. In any case, we want to win twice, and on May 15th we will see if we succeeded.”

Vertonghen also showed confidence in a successful double header. “After the ADO away match (3-2 loss, red.) faith in the title had disappeared slightly. We told one another that to achieve anything, we needed to win every next match. And we have done that. And so we now have a shot at the double.”

The Belgian captain of Ajax also has received much attention from his homeland for the upcoming decisive matches in The Netherlands. “I haven’t visited Belgium lately, but my family tells me that also there is expectation for these matches. I chatted with Nacer Chadli from Twente about this. Just as in The Netherlands, Belgium also has never had such a spectacular season finale. And because there are Belgians in both Ajax and Twente, there is quite some following for our duels.”

Finally the million dollar question: What if during the Cup final, with 0-0 on the scoreboard, Bryan Ruiz escapes on his way to the Ajax goal by himself - is it worth it to risk a red card (and subsequent automatic suspension for the league’s final match)? Vertonghen:”I would just recover the ball. And if not, a great keeper stands behind me.” De Boer: “One should not think too much about these situations. If you stress it, that is when it may go wrong. Just playing naturally will suffice. And if you analyse the full season, Ajax does not receive many red cards at all. It is not that important.”