Thursday, February 16, 2012

Your friendly neighborhood UEFA NextGen report

An NSC FYI: the tardiness of this post is my fault, not Jacob's...

When you think of elite player development, no two clubs come to mind more quickly and vibrantly than Barcelona and Ajax.

Rightfully so. Seven of the 11 players Pep Guardiola started against Osasuna on Saturday came out of La Masia with five of his seven substitutes also having come through the club's system.

The Ajax academy served as the model for Barcelona's. If Van der Sar, Bergkamp, Sneijder, and van der Vaart don't ring any bells then you probably haven't watched much soccer in the past 20 years. The 1974 Dutch World Cup team featured six Ajax players in its 22-man squad, plus Cruyff, the crown jewel of Ajax academy alumni. Johan Cruyff, one of the all-time greats, was also the man responsible for replicating the Ajax system at Barcelona. With that in mind, when the two teams' Under-19 sides met at the Mini Estadi in the NextGen quarterfinals Wednesday there was an element of history being made.

The "S" of Ajax's TIPS development system stands for speed and it showed against Barcelona. For all the technical ability of the two teams, it was direct speed that broke the nearly hour-long deadlock. A timely clearance from Mickey van der Hart was flicked into the path of Viktor Fischer, who outstripped his marker before ruthlessly finishing at the far post.

Both teams had started the match in high-pressing Total Football mode and the second period began in much the same fashion. It was a sight to behold, and even after Ajax opened the scoring Dongou was almost immediately a touch away from equalizing. The sides exchanged elegant cavalry charges with the hosts, Barcelona, looking slightly more in control.

Yet in a rare moment in which Barca took their collective foot off the pedal, some lax defending saw Rowenden Schoop collect the ball and coolly put away Ajax's second.

Barcelona pressed on, but Ajax were steady in defense and well-positioned to counter into possession of their own. When play resumed after a long break in from an awkward injury to Schoop, Ajax settled into some trademark pass, move, and cross that ended with Fischer putting the third and final nail in Barcelona's coffin.

The match always had the look of an American football game where the last team to have the ball wins. Unfortunately for Barcelona, this was not the case. The true difference was in defense. Ajax's through balls were deflected or mishandled into assists whereas Barcelona's were cut out and turned into Ajax possession. And goals.

You can watch highlights here ...

... and the full match here:


-Ajax will meet Liverpool at Anfield in the semis on a date to be determined.

-The winner will take on the winner of Inter-Marseille in the final.

-All of the semifinalists were runners-up in the group stage.

-Ajax's Davy Klaassen is the leading scorer amongst players still in the tournament with four goals to his name.

- Jacob Klinger


dikranovich said...

lets just wait and see how ajax fair today at home against man united. and hopefully the "supporters" will not cause any trouble. "daddy can i borrow your ajax europa league ticket for the man united game tonight?"

actually though, that AZ altidore v sachlecht looks like a nice matchup. all joking aside.

Greg Seltzer said...

Then cut the "joking" already. You're STILL going out of your way to aggravate me, and knowingly using persistent misinformation to do so. Still. I'm about to stop replying to you altogether.

Bryan said...

Thanks for putting up these highlights and the full match, Greg. As an Ajax fan, I think it's best we look to the future.

Greg Seltzer said...

Actually, Bryan, this is Jacob's post. :)

Jacob Klinger said...

Haha, I've been mistaken for a lot worse!

I agree re: Ajax fwiw.

Greg Seltzer said...

I do not agree. At Ajax, we have a present to worry about right now. Thinking of the future is for Monday nights at De Toekomst. In the present, we need to get everybody fit and get our shit together quick.

Jacob Klinger said...

I just meant from an optimism point of view. Just because as you said, y'all do need to get your shit together.

Obviously not mutually exclusive though.

dikranovich said...

greg, does de toekomst have anything to do with passing the peace pipe?

Greg Seltzer said...

It means "The Future" in Dutch, it is the name of the Ajax youth campus.

dikranovich said...

so on monday night, you will discuss the future at the future, nice.

Greg Seltzer said...

Young Ajax plays their games on Monday nights. These games bring out a lot of famous folks from the club's history. After the match, everyone gathers in the De Toekomst canteen to discuss soccer over beverages and snacks. It is very common to see Ajax staff and players there, with De Boer naturally there most of the time. Chances are good you will bump into the likes of Bergkamp, Cruijff, Keizer and many other old stars there, as well as media members, traveling soccer teams and even celebrities on Monday nights at De Toekomst.

dikranovich said...

why does ajax america fail and close up shop, yet ajax cape town produces players like steven piennar? there must be some kind of disconnect