‘Ajax comes close, but Twente remains big favorite’
It promises to be a championship battle for the Twente and Ajax women today at De Toekomst. With two games to go, Ajax is breathing down the Tukkers’ neck with two points difference. Both teams have solid weapons: there are two top strikers on the field who are competing for a starting spot at Oranje, and two Oranje goalkeepers.
The key question; who will sink their teeth into whom for the national championship? We asked Leonne Stentler, former soccer star and analyst with NOS and ESPN, what she is watching for in this cracker between the frontrunner and the number two.
Who will win: Ajax or Twente?
“For me, Twente is still the big favorite, although Ajax is coming close. It’s similar to last season. Then Twente started the last league game against Ajax with a three-point lead. In November, Twente beat Suzanne Bakker’s team 3-1. I expect another win this time as well.”
“Twente’s big advantage is that they are more relaxed about it. They can become national champions, Ajax thinks they have to win. I am curious to see what that does to the Ajax players; who can excel and who cannot handle that pressure? At the game in the Arena against Feyenoord, young defender Kay-lee de Sanders grabbed a starring role and you saw Romée Leuchter miss at least two good chances for a goal.”
“Ajax has matured under coach Bakker. With Sherida Spitse as captain, the team also has a strong leader in the field. She’s going to be national coach in ten years, watch out. But Joran Pot’s team has a better team culture, they go through fire for each other. There are leaders there, such as Renate Jansen, Suzanne Giesen and Maud Roetgering, who really carry the team. Roetgering often sits on the bench, but is incredibly important for the group dynamics in the locker room.”
Who is the best striker: Leuchter or Kalma?
“Fenna Kalma is also unstoppable this season with 29 goals to her name. Leuchter made fifteen, half! That Kalma will make the move to a foreign club after the summer is one hundred percent certain as far as I’m concerned. She works incredibly hard and is always working on getting better. She is in the right place, knows exactly how to make the right runs into the sixteen-meter area, which makes her approachable. Not every striker understands that.”
“Her weakness? Kalma is not the very fastest. I expect a club to come for her that plays attacking play, not counter soccer. Because on the opponent’s half, Kalma is at her best.”
“Whether Leuchter will make the step abroad already, I doubt it. She is good enough to make that step, but can also grow at Ajax, especially after the departure of Victoria Pelova to Arsenal. What is clever is how she tries to get free behind the back line. Like Kalma, she knows how to read the game well, is a bit of a wily fox.
“Her free kicks are, like Spitse’s: a weapon. And she is confident.”
Two Orange goalkeepers: who do you enjoy the most?
“Van Domselaar. She used to play gymnastics and volleyball for a long time; you can see that in how she moves: gracefully and with a good sense of timing. It is the Rene Wormhoudt philosophy: you learn to move better by practicing more different types of sports. Twente is only going to enjoy Van Domselaar for a short time, because the Orange goalkeeper will certainly be bought away after this season. She cannot be kept.”
“Lize Kop is the second Oranje goalkeeper and made forty saves this season, sixteen fewer than Van Domselaar. She had to settle in at the beginning of the season. This is only logical, as she was out of action for a long time due to a serious injury in 2021. She is now making a strong impression again. Kop is a goalkeeper who comes out of her goal with conviction.”