Four Ajax youth players are currently in the Dutch national team at the Under 17 European Championships in Slovenia. On Thursday evening, the Dutch team reached the semi-finals, in which Georgia was this weekend’s opponent. Elton Acolatse (16) and Djavan Anderson (17) tell their story from the Dutch camp.
Although we are not even halfway through 2012, the year can’t possibly go wrong for Acolatse and Anderson. Both Ajax B1 players have experienced highlight after highlight during these past months. They both signed a contract with Ajax, won the AEGON Future Cup, and won the national championship with B1. This month, they are at the EC under 17 in Slovenia, fighting for the European championships. The spot that they’ve earned in the semi-finals could possibly lead to a spot on the podium.
“You can tell that all of our EC opponents approach us as the current title holder. Although only three guys from last year are still here, the team just shines from it”, says forward Acolatse, who has heard great stories from European champion Danzell Gravenberch (with Ajax A1 this season). “In the first group match against host Slovenia (3-1 win), the crowd was very enthusiastic. That was great. Especially when they started encouraging us at one point because we were playing so well. That was a special experience.”
Afterwards, the matches against Belgium and Slovenia both ended with 0-0 ties. No scoring power? “That’s not true. First of all, our defence was good, but Belgium was simply a good opponent. Against Poland we only needed one point – just like them. That’s why they dug in in their own half. The 0-0 was a good result for both of us.”
Together with Branco van den Boomen and Queensy Menig, Anderson and Acolats are part of the Ajax delegation in the Dutch national Under 17 team. Anderson played all three matches as right back, and Acolatse missed out on the game against Poland due to a light ankle injury. “But it’s getting better, so I hope to play against Georgia on Sunday”, says the forward, who saw team mate Menig fill his spot.
The European finals in warm Slovenia (temperatures above 25 degrees) will likely share similarities with the AEGON Future Cup. “Definitely in terms of atmosphere and different styles of play. You continuously need to be ready for a different kind of opponent.” That last statement applies to relatively unknown Georgia, who has earned a spot in the semi-finals. Acolatse: “Before this, I only knew Georgia because of former Ajax centre forward Shota Arveladze, but since this tournament, we know what they can do.” Anderson adds: “They beat Spain and England during the elite rounds. And they survived the group phase in a pool with Germany and France. We won’t underestimate them on Sunday.”
If the Dutch Under 17 team makes the finals after Sunday night (kick-off at 8.30p.m.), they will meet either Germany or Poland, who play each other earlier that evening. The finals will be played on Wednesday, just as both semi-finals were, in the capital, Ljubljana. The duels can be followed on Eurosport.