The good news had an international dimension this week too, as Jonathan de Guzman made his under 21s debut in the Dutch team, while Feyenoord supplied more players than any other club to the full team, when Holland came back from three down to beat co-Euro 2008 hosts Austria 4-3.
Van Marwijk has also seen his team make progress in recent weeks. The results have been disappointing – with defeats to NEC and Sparta, but the coach says he cannot find fault with his players’ commitment, especially last Sunday’s loss on the other side of Rotterdam. ‘The referee robbed us of our victory. I am still – if I can put it like this – angry about that.’
The three points dropped at Het Kasteel could yet prove to be Feyenoord’s undoing in the battle for a top five finish. ‘We had some incredible bad luck there. If we’d won, the game against NAC would have been a little easier for us.’
With just seven points separating Ajax in second from FC Groningen in seventh, few would doubt the importance of the season’s last four fixtures (not counting the playoffs). Starting with the game in Breda, which is a six-pointer by anyone’s reckoning. If Feyenoord do manage to secure a seventh away win of the season it will go a long way to securing one of those four coveted positions from second to fifth.
Revenge may well be the prime driver for the hosts when NAC entertain Feyenoord Sunday. The defeat at De Kuip in mid-March in the cup – and the 5-0 reverse in Rotterdam back in August – would be redressed for one. But the chance to play in the Champions League will be a big carrot too. Victory would put the Breda club three points ahead of Feyenoord with three games remaining in the race for a top five place.
NAC follow up the Feyenoord encounter with a trip to seventh-placed FC Groningen, which is more motivation to maximise their home advantage Sunday. That CL prize is a big one, but whichever way the cookie crumbles it’s been a good season for the Breda outfit. A semi-final appearance in the cup was a fine achievement, although it’s always bitter to taste defeat one step from the final. And looking at the league again, even seventh – which is the lowest they can finish – would guarantee a place in the Uefa Cup playoffs, a vast improvement on recent seasons, when they finished 15th, 16th and 11th respectively.
Former Feyenoord player Anthony Lurling is a doubt against his old club. The striker is having a first-class season, but he picked up an injury in the recent 3-3 draw at Vitesse. ‘If Feyenoord was the last game of the season things would be different,’ admits Lurling on the NAC website. ‘But after Feyenoord we have three important games and then the playoffs.’
NAC Breda – Feyenoord
Sunday 30 March, 12:30 at Rat Verlegh Stadium
NAC Breda: Ten Rouwelaar; Elshot, Penders, Zwaandswijk, Mtiliga; Stam, Fehér, Molhoek; Ammi, Idabdelhay, Kolkka.
Feyenoord: Timmer; Lucius, Bahia, Hofland, De Cler; Landzaat, Van Bronckhorst, Sahin; De Guzman, Mols, Bruins.
26/08/2007 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 5-0
01/10/2006 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 3-2
14/08/2005 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-0
07/11/2004 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 4-0
31/08/2003 Feyenoord - NAC Breda 2-1
21/01/2007 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 4-1
12/02/2006 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 3-3
10/04/2005 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-2
04/04/2004 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 0-3
22/12/2002 NAC Breda - Feyenoord 1-1