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Koeman cautious about Ajax

Published: Wednesday 25 September 2002, 15.59CET
AFC Ajax coach Ronald Koeman reflects on his side's storming start to the season. features

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Published: Wednesday 25 September 2002, 15.59CET

Koeman cautious about Ajax

AFC Ajax coach Ronald Koeman reflects on his side's storming start to the season.
Despite five straight wins in the Eredivisie and an opening-night victory over Olympique Lyonnais in the UEFA Champions League, AFC Ajax coach Ronald Koeman says there is a long way to go before the club can recapture their status as one of Europe's foremost sides.

Heady days
According to the former Dutch international, Ajax "are ages from the form" they showed in the early 1970s and mid-1990s when they were European champions four times. "But we are getting there little by little," added Koeman, scorer of the winning goal for FC Barcelona against Sampdoria UC in the 1992 Champions League final.

Perfect opportunity
"It is a great time for Ajax as we are currently on a high after a number of years filled with disappointment," he continued. And Koeman sees today's clash with Internazionale FC at the San Siro as the perfect opportunity for his youngsters to take the next step towards further recognition.

Great occasion
"It's a great occasion for my players and I really hope the house doesn't come tumbling down on our heads," he said. "Inter have come on a lot since I was there last year with [SBV] Vitesse in the UEFA Cup and we have plenty of respect for them." Regardless of the outcome, Koeman believes the match will offer his players the international experience they need.

Crowd involvement
However, he warns that one moment of hesitation could cost his team dear in the highly charged atmosphere of the Giuseppe Meazza stadium. "The noise in the stadium can be very intense and the crowd will aim to carry Inter forward from the first whistle," he said.

'Essential to keep concentration'
"It's important that my players keep their concentration throughout the match," he added. "One moment you can feel you are in control, the next you fall behind - that's how sharp the Italians are. Just look at Rosenborg and all the chances they created. In the end all they got out of it was a 2-2 draw."

Zlatan revitalised
The key to Dutch success in Milan could be the presence of resurgent Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovic, hero of the 2-1 win against Lyon. "Zlatan has surprised me and he seems revitalised at the moment. The two goals he scored against Lyon have certainly helped and I just hope this marks a new beginning for him," Koeman said. If it does, a new beginning for Ajax could soon follow.

Last updated: 25/09/02 21.54CET

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