Leading up to the cup final between Ajax and Feyenoord, the coaches and captains of both teams were in Zeist on Friday afternoon for a pre-match press conference. At the KNVB headquarters, everyone looked towards the two matches of the final, the first of which starts on Sunday in the Amsterdam ArenA.
Luis Suarez got an early taste of holding the KNVB Cup. After the press conference, he went outside with Martin Jol and the Feyenoord delegation, to pose with the gleaming cup. Jol, Mario Been and Feyenoord captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst know first hand what it’s like to win the national cup. Suarez will play his first final on Sunday (and on Thursday, May 6).
To reach the sports centre in Zeist, the Ajax delegation, and their Feyenoord colleagues, faced heavy traffic jams, which lead to the press conference in the Zeisterbos to start one hour later than planned. When the participants were finally ready, the topic of splitting the final into two games inevitably came up. Suarez saw the positive side of it:” It’s great to play two of these matches”, said the Uruguayan, referring to the double confrontation that awaits Ajax and Feyenoord within the next week and a half.
The “Europa cup principle” will apply to the double final. A good result in Amsterdam would be beneficial for Ajax when in comes to the return match in Rotterdam. As to whether Ajax is expecting a favourable result from the match result, Jol answers: “It’s impossible to say ahead of time how it will go. We know Feyenoord, and they’re a strong team when they want to be. Look at their away cup game against PSV, earlier this season. They were able to win in Eindhoven (0-3).”
En route to the final this season, Ajax met AGOVV, FC Dordrecht, WHC, NEC and Go Ahead Eagles. Feyenoord played against PSV, FC Den Bosch and Harkemase Boys, as well as AZ and FC Twente. With two matches against Ajax left, the team from Rotterdam confronted the top four Eredivisie teams during their cup journey. “We’ve had it easier in terms of opponents”, says Jol. “They met PSV and AZ away, so in that respect, we’ve had a relatively easy time.”
If Ajax proves stronger in the next two matches, captain Suarez will receive the Cup on May 6 from Dennis Bergkamp and Frank de Boer. In addition, Ajax’s top attacker could receive a ‘paper prize’, as with six goals - all against WHC – he is the Cup competition’s top scorer. From the finalists, Marko Pantelic and Demy de Zeeuw, and Feyenoord forward Makaay, all with three goals, come closest to Suarez’s number.
Feyenoord trainer Been answers with his trademark tongue in cheek, when asked who he will assign to cover Suarez: “I’m still debating whether I should put three or four players against him.” Suarez’s big smile further down the table spoke volumes.
The first match in the cup final begins on Sunday at 6pm in the Amsterdam ArenA. Eric Braamhaar will referee. The return match is in Rotterdam on Thursday, May 6 (6.30pm), and will be in the hands of referee Roelof Luinge.