Verbeek watched the Swedes last Sunday and saw them win 2-1 at Stockholm side Hammarby in front of a sizeable ten thousand-strong crowd. The coach feels that the available video material also confirms Kalmar’s status as formidable opposition. ‘Kalmar are a physically strong team with an average height of 1.87 metres, which means they are good at set plays. They play attacking football and give little away. Their positional play is not unattractive and they score a lot of goals for a Swedish team. Kalmar is not top of the table in Sweden for nothing.’
Verbeek passed on his knowledge of the Swedes to his players Tuesday and Feyenoord will train for the last time Wednesday evening at De Kuip, before moving into a hotel. ‘We’re not looking at the opposition any more, only at ourselves. We’ll round things off tomorrow,’ explained Verbeek.
Roy Makaay will join the squad for that last training session. If things go well he’ll be named in the match-day squad, but Verbeek does not feel Makaay is ready to start the game. Luigi Bruins will also hook up with the squad. The midfielder has recovered from a hamstring injury.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who left for home early Tuesday due to illness, reported back Wednesday morning and all things being equal he will start the game.
‘I have no idea whet Kalmar will do,’ said Verbeek, looking forward to the game. ‘It doesn’t matter either. It’s about what we do. We have to try to get ourselves in a good position ahead of the return. It is important to put some distance between us and them. It’s a pity that the upper tier will be closed tomorrow, because we really need our fans for this one.’
Kalmar FF are the runaway leaders in the Allsvenskan right now. Times have changed in the Swedish top flight since IFK Göteborg reeled off a series of title wins in the 1990s – they have been eight different champions in the past nine years, although the Gothenburgers did win their first championship in eleven years last season. This season though Kalmar lead Elfsborg by eleven points with eight games to play and are surely dead certs to earn their first title ever by the time the season wraps up in early November.
Kalmar’s imminent success is no surprise to those in the know, mind. Last season was the club’s best ever and the title went down to the wire. But both Kalmar and IFK won their final day fixture, so the honours went to Angels of Gothenburg. The two sides also met in the cup final, where Nanne Bergstrand’s side claimed the cup, thwarting IFK’s double aspirations. It was only the club’s third trophy in its history, after similar cup triumphs in 1981 and 1987.
Kalmar cannot boast much in the way of European success either. Best-ever showing was a place in the second round of the cup winners’ cup in 1987-88. Sporting Lisbon were too strong that time round. In summer 2006 Kalmar played their first and up to now only competitive game against Dutch opposition. FC Twente won that year’s two-legged third round Intertoto clash between the clubs.
This year Kalmar started their European adventure in the first UEFA Cup qualifying round against Racing FC Union Luxembourg. Keeper Petter Wastå did concede one goal over two legs, but his own side managed to rattle in ten to set up a double-header against AA Gent. The first game ended in a 1-2 defeat in Belgium, but four goals without reply back in the south of Sweden took Kalmar through to the first round proper.
Feyenoord has been warned then. Kalmar is an in-form team that top the Swedish league and have also battled their way into the cup final again, setting up another encounter with IFK Göteborg, scheduled for coming weekend.
Uefa Cup First Round, First Leg
Feyenoord – Kalmar FF
Thursday 18 September, 19:00 at De Kuip
Referee: Darko Ceferin (Slovenia)
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Bahia, Hofland, De Cler; Wijnaldum, De Guzman, Van Bronckhorst, Bruins (Fer); Tomasson and Mols.
Kalmar FF: Azinovic; Sorin, Lindberg, Lantz, Nouri; Rasmus Elm, Rydström, Johansson; Ingelsten, Victor Elm and Augustsson.