FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY TO REACH THE NEXT ROUND, SAYS VERBEEK

Feyenoord face a tricky trip to HHC Hardenberg in the third round of the KNVB Cup Thursday. Any thoughts of a cosy night against amateur opponents will have to be eliminated, especially after Achilles’ 29 dumped RKC Waalwijk out of the competition on Tuesday night. Gertjan Verbeek for one is fully aware that his side are facing a ‘cupset’ situation. ‘But it’s clear that we have more quality,’ the Feyenoord coach affirmed.

The Rotterdammers’ preparations show that Feyenoord are taking the tie very seriously indeed. The quest for more information about HHC started as soon as the draw was made. Verbeek attended in person last Saturday when HHC were given a dusting down by Staphorst at home (0-2). ‘I’m assuming they’ll take us into account,’ said Verbeek. ‘They will not go forward as much and they’ll keep the pitch small.’
 
Verbeek will certainly not be using the game to give any fringe players a run out. The fixture is too important for that, because the KNVB Cup is the shortest route to European football, as Feyenoord found out last season. Victory in Emmen will put the Rotterdammers into the last sixteen. The amateur status of their opponents improves Feyenoord’s prospects, admits Verbeek. ‘It’s different from when you have to play Willem II or Roda JC. This is a fantastic opportunity to reach the next round.’
 
So, despite a difficult trip to FC Twente looming at the weekend, Verbeek is not planning to give any of his first-team players a night off. ‘We don’t have the opportunity to rest players.’ The only recent regular who will miss the tie is Leroy Fer. The midfielder is ill.
 
THE OPPOSITION
 
HHC Hardenberg’s cup-tie against Feyenoord has already generated unprecedented publicity for the amateur side before a ball has been kicked. The club that won the eastern/northern section of the top-flight amateur league in the Netherlands last season (Saturday Hoofdklasse C) has garnered quite a lot of attention in the regional press over the past few years, but the game against Feyenoord will be shown live on national TV, taking things to a new level.
 
Hardenberg is hot and the whole country knows it. Edwin Evers, the village’s most famous inhabitant, is bigging up the game on his national radio show and Dutch dailies and TV stations soon found their way there after the draw was made. Everyone seems to be curious about Feyenoord’s latest cup opponents.
 
The club can perhaps be best described as a stronghold of amateur football. HHC have grown strongly over the past decade, winning promotion to the highest league in the amateur pyramid in 2004. The club has won the Hoofklasse C title in the past two seasons.
 
They have certainly worked hard to get to this stage of the domestic cup competition. The first round win against fellow amateurs Schijndel earned HHC a second-round home tie against the pros of Go Ahead Eagles, which the hosts won 5-3 on penalties.
 
The game finished 1-1 after a late Hardenberg equaliser from Tony Alberda, who is without doubt the club’s most familiar name. Alberda played in the professional game for ten years, wearing the colours of sc Heerenveen, Emmen, FC Groningen and Veendam.
 
After the sensational victory against Go Ahead Eagles Hardenberg were hoping to pick a plum in the third-round draw and they could scarcely imagine anything bigger than Feyenoord. The decision to show the tie live on TV meant that the game was moved to Emmen’s Univé Stadium fairly early on, but HHC will still enjoy a bumper gate.
 
All 8,500 tickets were sold out within an hour and a convoy of thirty or so buses will leave Hardenberg for Emmen come Thursday. All told then, the result itself will not stop it from being a night to remember for the club and its fans.
 
KNVB CUP, THIRD ROUND
HHC Hardenberg – Feyenoord
Thursday 13 November, 20:45 at Univé Stadium
Referee: Makkelie
 
PROBABLE LINE-UPS
HHC Hardenberg: Doornbos; Offringa, Voshaar, De Visscher, Jurgens; Bayar, Kocks, Bruns; Tieltjes, Berger and Kroeze.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Tiendalli, Bahia, Hofland, De Cler; Wijnaldum, El Ahmadi, Bruins, Van Bronckhorst; Makaay and Biseswar.

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