The NextGen Series came to it’s conclusion on Monday May 16 with a great turn out of local football fans, eager to watch the home team, Ajax and check out some of the excellent young talent on display.
The day started with Galatasaray taking on PSV followed by a semi-final clash of arguably the two form teams of the tournament in Ajax vs. Tottenham Hotspur. The intensity of the match was noticeably higher with Spurs trying to press and play with real speed. We were most interested in seeing which teams stayed true to their style when the pressure came on. After taking a 1-0 lead, Spurs were pinned back and forced to defend deep whilst Ajax threw everything at them in the last 10 minutes to try and take it to penalties. Spurs held strong changing into a 4-5-1 and brought on Kazahiah Sterling up front. Sterling showed exceptional speed but interestingly Spurs often declined the opportunity of playing direct and killing the game, still trying to play out on turnovers where possible.
FC Barcelona who had played with the most style in the tournament played ASA United and after going 1-0 down, FC Barcelona fought back to 1-1 but ASA secured themselves a deserved point and a spot in the semi-finals. ASA were a mixed bag in terms of style, at times demonstrating exciting flair and creativity but when under pressure or behind, reverted to a more direct approach.
As the matches went on throughout the day, a number of players excited the crowd and impressed Player Development Project.
Tottenham had several exciting players and top performers over the weekend: William Miller and Joe Pritchard regularly received between the lines and moved beyond the back four with intelligent runs. Kyle Walker-Peters was an attacking threat at full-back and Filip Lesniak controlled the tempo in deep-lying midfield role.
All the players here are exciting prospects but we really enjoyed watching Braima Fati (#8), Seung-Woo Lee (#9), Rojas Lopez Joao Joshimar (#11), Indy Groothuizen (#1) and player of the tournament Marcus Edwards. Edwards floated between lines with exceptional balance, linking play and causing problems for defences.
With Ajax knocked out in the semi finals much to the local fans disappointment, it was left to Ajax Capetown to fly the Dutch flag in the final against Spurs. The opening half was nervy and packed with transitions as both teams fought to dominate possession. The second half began and with a direct approach, Ajax Capetown turned the Spurs defence with a goal kick in behind and a bounce in ‘no mans land’ meant a deft chip from the Ajax Capetown striker put them ahead 1-0. Only minutes later an almost identical finish made it 2-0.
Ajax Capetown were obviously delighted to finish top of the tournament, but more importantly from our perspective, we had the privilege of watching some highly talented individuals across all of the teams, some very contrasting styles and approaches and in the end, the results were less significant than some of the future talent on display.
As a tribute to the late, great Johan Cruyff who was a huge fan of this tournament, we have put together our Total Football XI for the tournament:
- Indy Groothuizen (Ajax Amsterdam)
- Daniel Morer Cabrera (FC Barcelona)
- Leon Bergsma (Ajax Amsterdam)
- Juan Manuel Garcia Rey (FC Barcelona)
- Joseph Muscat (Tottenham Hotspur)
- Castillo Segura Byron David (ASA United)
- Marcus Edwards (Tottenham Hotspur)
- Braima Fati (FC Barcelona)
- Seung-Woo Lee (FC Barcelona)
- William Miller (Tottenham Hotspur)
- Rojas Lopez Joao Joshimar (ASA United)
The above selection is based on the players we enjoyed watching and felt would be able to implement a fluid, total football style.