Euro 2012 Poland & Ukraine - Friendlies
Ibrahim Afellay Oranje's Zidane?
Looking for the ideal offensive
lineup bondscoach Bert van Marwijk will have an extra
option tonight. For the first time since the summer
of 2011 Ibrahim Afellay as provider for the center forward.
Afellay has proven that he can function in that role
for Robin van Persie, and he has done it for Klaas-Jan
Huntelaar as well.
When asked after their best games
for Holland, both Van Persie and Huntelaar point to
games in which the same player took on the leading role.
It was Ibrahim Afellay who allowed Van Persie to shine,
one night in May of 2010 in Freiburg. Preparing for
the last World Cup Van Persie scored two against Mexico
and laid claim to the center forward position.
Huntelaar played one of his best
games in the first game of the qualification campaign
for this tournament. Beating Sweden 4-1 at home Huntelaar
played a key role assisted by Afellay, who scored a
When Holland face Slovakia in De
Kuip in Rotterdam it will be interesting to see whether
Van Marwijk will give the recovered Barcelona striker
any playing time. If yes: which finisher will he find
in front of him? During yesterday's training in the
village of Hoenderloo Afellay spent some time rehearsing
on the left wing with Van Persie up front. There's a
perfect fit between the two of them, as could be observed
in other games the two played together. Yet after that
sparkling night in Freiburg it didn't happen in South
Africa. Van Marwijk preferred Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van
der Vaart. Afellay came of the bench only a few times.
Yet it's an interesting story to
see how Afellay might return to the team on the left
wing. Thinking back to Zinedine Zidane Van Marwijk tried
to get him interested in a hanging position on the left.
"Deep inside they all want to play on the number
10 position, the Van der Vaarts, Sneijders and Afellays
of this era," Van Marwijk tells Dutch daily AD
Sportwereld. "But one of the best number 10's ever
always played coming from the left at Real Madrid. When
you play just outside the box, in the center, you often
play with your back towards the goal. From the side
you're facing the goal and you have more options. Cut
inside, go wide and cross. Afellay has allowed me to
convince him, and I feel he's shown us that he feels
well on that position."
The player himself came to Hoenderloo
just being tremendously happy that he finally play again
after almost an entire season of recovery from a knee
injury. "At first I couldn't believe it was happening
to me. It was a nightmare, yet real," Afellay said
Monday, after his first training session.
The 26-year-old admitted he has
gone through hell. " That feeling lasted for months,
but I came through. I never doubted I would, but I didn't
have a date set on which I wanted to be back. All that
mattered was to get healthy again. I am now."
When he got injured in September
doctors told him the recovery period would be nine months,
which endangered his changes for the upcoming tournament.
But on the 29th of April he was came on for 15 minutes
in Barcelona's league game against Rayo Vallecano. "The
good feeling returned pretty quickly after that. How
can it not when every day you train with world class
players? The recovery has now lasted 8 months, and I
can only be positive about it."
During that period manager Bert
van Marwijk frequently hinted at Afellay being important
for his team. "Of course it's great to hear that
the manager has faith in you. But I know what my qualities
are, and that is most important. My family, friends
and team mates gave me great support, but in the end
you have to do it yourself. There have been a number
of difficult moments. But at such times there are two
things you can do: either you hang down your head and
get cross, but that doesn't help you. So I chose get
to it and work hard to get back."
Without having had much playing
time Afellay showed up in Hoenderloo on Monday. No problem,
he said. "Barcelona are well oiled team and so
it's hard to push your way in at the end of the season.
But what is match rhythm when you play like a turd every
week? A player like me never loses his feeling for the
ball. Mentally and physically I am now stronger than
I was before my injury. I'm back."
2012 campaign - Results, schedule, standings
at European Championships
time European Championships ranking