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FC Twente may have progressed to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals since landing in the competition from the UEFA Champions League but, according to one of the Dutch titleholders' key men, they have "made life difficult for themselves".
In their round of 32 and 16 ties against Russian champions past and present, Twente and their supporters endured – and enjoyed – undulating fortunes before ultimately booking a last-eight meeting with Spain's Villarreal CF.
Michel Preud'homme's men led 3-0 from their first leg against FC Zenit St Petersburg in the last round, with a comfortable passage to the quarter-finals looking likely, only for a nervy night at Petrovski Stadion to ensue. They finally squeezed through as 3-2 aggregate winners.
"In recent years, we've become very good at making life difficult for ourselves," Dutch international midfielder Wout Brama told UEFA.com's behind-the-scenes documentary: The Twente Story. "We don't win matches easily and we did that again – it was nice for the spectators but not so nice for us."
The scare in St Petersburg followed a similar white-knuckle ride against FC Rubin Kazak and it appears that such roller-coaster exploits are making football an addictive commodity for the youth of Enschede. Certainly, that is the impression given by brothers Raphael and Eusebio Paol, whose lives revolve around football coaching sessions led by their father, and watching schoolboy heroes such as Theo Janssen in action at the FC Twente Stadion.
"As a family, they're crazy about football," said the lads' uncle, Eugenio Porcu, who is also Twente's operational affairs manager. "One of the boys is training with us at the academy. The other one is playing with the D1 or E1 team at Vogido in Enschede. Whenever somebody can't make it, then we give them season tickets and they come to the game. It's true – they're crazy about this club."
Whether or not the boys will be seeing the Tukkers in the UEFA Europa League final in Dublin on 18 May rests, initially, on the next two matches. The side visit Villarreal for the first leg on 7 April, before the decider back in Enschede seven days later.
"Everyone has been working hard over the last few years to achieve this," said Twente technical manager Cees Lok. "We're already very proud of it. We know they can play football over there [in Villarreal]. They're a very good footballing side and the Spanish league is of such a high quality."
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