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Kaiser reign reaps rewards

Published: Friday 13 May 2005, 16.36CET
Under-17 coach Ruud Kaiser has masterminded the Netherlands' best-ever run in UEFA youth competition.
Published: Friday 13 May 2005, 16.36CET

Kaiser reign reaps rewards

Under-17 coach Ruud Kaiser has masterminded the Netherlands' best-ever run in UEFA youth competition.
By Paul Saffer in Tirrenia

For all their success at senior level, the last time the Netherlands contested a major European junior final was in the 1970 International Youth Tournament for Under-18s - and they have never been victorious.

Kaiser delight
But with the run of Ruud Kaiser's side to Saturday's UEFA European Under-17 Championship final against Turkey in Pontedera, all that has changed. The coach is delighted both with their progress in the competition and their resulting qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru later this year.

'Great feeling'
"In this age group we have never reached the final and have never been to a world championship," the 44-year-old said. "We were unlucky in 2000 when we won the bronze medal, because then only two went to the world championship, now three go. This is our best result ever, we are going to the world championship, it is a great feeling."

Zaalman recovery
To get here they edged out the hosts in extra time, Melvin Zaalman recovering from injury to come off the bench and head the winner. "It was incredible that the smallest player on the pitch could jump high to score," Kaiser said. "He then said he couldn't sprint any more, but you should have seen him sprint when the game finished!"

Dramatic finishes
That continued a series of dramatic finishes here in Italy and in qualification, with the Netherlands gaining a 2-2 group stage draw against Croatia having been two down in added time, and turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory in the last five minutes of their Elite round decider against Germany.

Physical strength
"We beat Germany in added time, we came back against Croatia in added time - both saved us in the tournament," he said. "And now we have done it in extra time, this means physically the boys are very strong. On the other hand, we make the games difficult for ourselves because we create a lot of chances and don't finish them off. So we have to go until the end. When we finish games off earlier we will be better, but I cannot complain."

Turkish reunion
The Dutch also struck an equaliser three minutes from the end of their final qualifying round match against Turkey in October to keep their competition alive. The same opposition now lie in store, and Kaiser is casting his mind back.

'Keep growing'
Kaiser said: "At that time we were missing some players. Our left-winger John Goossens was injured, Jeffrey Sarpong was not there, our goalkeeper Tim Krul was not there, and it was just about surviving the group and building on that for the second qualification round. The team was growing, growing, growing. Against Italy we played a marvellous game and hopefully we can keep growing."

Taking chances
But he does have some concerns. "Turkey score a lot of goals, we don't score so many," he said. "They score more easily than us - at the moment we need ten chances to score one goal, when Turkey get five chances they score two or three, except against Italy."

School support
Still, the Dutch have enjoyed their time in Italy, and have received great support from their adopted school in San Giuliano Terme, even against the hosts. After that game the players went over to celebrate with their new fans, and the following morning visited the pupils.

Strong bond
"It is great," Kaiser said. "The children had supported us for three games, but here was the semi-final against Italy and they still supported us. I was really surprised. It gave me a great feeling inside."

Last updated: 31/01/12 7.10CET

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