Ajax faces PEC Zwolle in the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday to battle it out for the Johan Cruijff Trophy. Prior to this match between the national champion and the cup winner, a press conference took place on Friday with the coaches and captains of both teams at the KNVB in Zeist. Frank de Boer: “Sunday’s match will be a very important one for us.”
Even though some coaches see the Johan Cruijff Trophy as the end of the pre-season, De Boer doesn’t see it that way. “Of course it’s an important match, even though this will only be the second time that my players play for 90 minutes. That’s only happened once before in this pre-season, last week against Benfica. But obviously we’re going for this completely in order to win the prize.” Captain Niklas Moisander is ready for the game: “We’ve trained well and we had good pre-season, and we’re totally ready for this. Do we have any feelings of wanting to get even after we lost the cup final? Yes, it was a great day for PEC Zwolle, and it was a dramatic day for us. It still hurts, and that’s why we want to win this prize so badly. It’s a new season and everything is still fresh and new.”
Ajax has plenty of experience with matches for the Johan Crujff Trophy, but it’s a novelty for PEC Zwolle. Coach Ron Jans and captain Bram van Polen are not in complete agreement about which is more important; the start of the season, or the Johan Crujff Trophy. “I’d rather win the first competition match of the season against FC Utrecht”, said the Zwolle coach. “But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to do everything possible to win the Johan Cruijff Trophy.” Van Polen clearly stated his priorities for upcoming Sunday: “The Johan Cruijff Trophy is very important, it’s a prize, and PEC Zwolle doesn’t play for a prize that often.”
The game between Ajax and PEC Zwolle will be a replay of the KNVB Cup final a few months ago. PEC Zwolle won with a surprising 5-1 score. De Boer is still upset about that. “At the time, PEC Zwolle had four matches to prepare for that match. We were in the middle of the championship race. Of course they attacked and played very well, which is a compliment to the staff and PEC selection. Our focus wasn’t good enough then. That will have to be different on Sunday.”
For the first time on Sunday, there will be no overtime if the game ends in a tie. Penalty kicks will begin right after the final whistle. The KNVB has decided this in order to spare the players too much physical exertion at the start of the season. Both Jans and De Boer agree. “Players are not yet ready to play for so long, definitely not for 120 minutes. After a match like that, you’re asking for injuries. Neither Ajax or PEC wants that”, said De Boer.
The match for the Johan Cruijff Trophy starts on Sunday in a special way. The players will carry the mascots on piggy back onto the field, instead of holding their hands. In this way, attention will be brought to jekuntmijnrugop.nl (‘I can piggyback you’), which calls for help for kids with muscular illnesses.
Ajax could win its ninth Johan Cruijff Trophy.