Ajax ended its training camp in Brazil with a 1-0 loss on Sunday. In the Vasco de Gama’s lively and sweltering São Januário stadium, Kolbeinn Sigthórsson celebrated his long-awaited comeback. Ryan Babel returned as well after a shoulder injury.
For Vasco's crowd favourite, Pedrinho’s, farewell game, Ajax played in a special kit. Ajax’s head and jersey sponsor AEGON made place this one time for the name of its Brazilian daughter, Mongeral AEGON. The core objectives of the champions’ international trip were team building and mental training. Everything was done to ensure that they are completely prepared when the season resumes on January 20th with the Klassieker. Another one of Ajax’s goals for this trip was to increase the brand recognition and appeal of AEGON’s daughter company. Athletically, the week in Rio de Janeiro went very smoothly, and fortunately there were no injuries. Both team spirit and mental resilience have likely been reinforced during this overseas training camp. Mongeral AEGON was also pleased with Ajax’s commitment.
Ajax played a mediocre first half in the São Januário stadium. Vasco de Gama was the one creating the opportunities for the entire half. The Amsterdam team was often forced to be defensive, and as a result, they were unable to transition into fluid offensive play very often. The attacking trio of Tobias Sana, Siem de Jong and Derk Boerrigter was barely brought into position. Joël Veltman started in the heart of Ajax’s defense, as his coach had announced days before. The central defender showed once again that he’s a good replacement for Toby Alderweireld, who was sick and thus had remained at home in the Netherlands.
It spoke volumes that it wasn’t until fourteen minutes into the game that right winger Boerrigter had the first scoring opportunity for Ajax (which he missed). The winger put the ball into the side net. Kenneth Vermeer was much busier across the field (where there was more sand than grass). The Brazilians took the lead after about fifteen minutes. On a pass from Bernardo, with a free kick from the left, Wendel sent the ball convincingly past Vermeer: 0-1.
Vasco’s Bernardo proved to be, just like Carlos Alberto, to be one of the greatest thorns in Ajax’s side. Soon after the opening goal, the forward sent a free kick onto the post, via Vermeer’s fingertips. Shortly before Boerrigter’s first scoring chance for Ajax, Bernardo has also sent a free kick opportunity high over Ajax’s goal. Frank de Boer’s team could have, and perhaps should have, been further behind at halftime.
The Amsterdam team opened the second half directly with more dangerous play. Ryan Babel replaced Sana after the break. Jasper Cillessen took Vermeer’s place between the posts. Ajax had another narrow escape when – once again – Bernardo sent an attempt against the post. After that, the guests’ main adversary was keeper Alessandro. Soon after the keeper had neutralized an attempt by De Jong, Alessandro was again put to the test by another Ajax opportunity. Babel was also unable to help his team to score the tying goal.
De Boer gave most of his squad players 65 minutes of playing time. Daley Blind, Christian Poulsen, Siem de Jong, Ricardo van Rhijn, Derk Boerrigter, Christian Eriksen and Niklas Moisander went off to the sidelines afterwards. Mitchell Dijks, Stefano Denswil, Danny Hoesen, Lucas Andersen, Jody Lukoki, Ruben Ligeon and Eyong Enoh came in for the rest of the practice match. Most of the Ajax
selection thus gained valuable playing time. Viktor Fischer got to rest, and Mickey van der Hart also remained in the dug-outs (which were behind the back line!) for the entire match.
In the closing phase, Kolbeinn Sigthórsson came in for Babel, who had come in midway through the game. The Icelander made his long-awaited comeback into De Boer’s squad. A good working week in Brazil thus ended, despite the practice match defeat, with an additional high note.
Frank de Boer: “The field was a sand box. But despite everything (the heat and the bad field), I’m satisfied because they worked hard. We were only sloppy in the standard situations. In those moments, the organization simply has to be there.”
Keep watching Ajax TV for reports, including a recap of the practice match against Vasco de Gama.