With Noel King’s Ireland U21 side set to take on the Netherlands next Wednesday in Tallaght Stadium, Niall Farrell takes a look at three men in Oranje to watch.
Dutch coach Remy Reijnierse has gone with an experimental squad consisting of players under the age of 20 only. Although you might not recognise most of the names in the squad, unless you watch a lot of Dutch football of course, there is still a lot of talent in there.
One incident from his Ajax debut sums Jody Lukoki up. After being brought on as a substitute in a league match against arch-rivals Feyenoord, the 19 year-old winger could have been forgiven for showing a few nerves. Not this lad, though. He nutmegged Feyenoord favourite and former Dutch international Tim De Cler – despite the ball already being out of play (watch it here). Needless to say, Lukoki was an instant hit with the Ajax faithful. This season has seen him really break into the first-team proper, with three goals so far in 13 Eredivisie appearances. Although he could still play for DR Congo – the land of his birth – don’t be surprised to see Lukoki in the full Netherlands squad soon.
This Roda JC winger is just another one of the plethora of young talents in the Eredivisie. After making his debut in 2010, Hupperts only made nine first-team appearances for the team from the south of the Netherlands. But this season has seen the forward, who is another speedster, make 15 appearances as Roda battle against relegation. Although he doesn’t score as much as other attackers (Hupperts is often deployed as a winger or ‘in the hole’), the 20 year-old usually keeps his markers busy. Added to his pace is his height, with Hupperts standing over six foot tall. Other Dutch clubs have already been sniffing around, and although he signed a two-year deal with his boyhood club last summer, if Roda were to go down he would be in high demand.
Although it’d be easy to pick out three or four more attacking talents in this Dutch side, Stefano Denswil is one of the Oranje’s young defensive prodigies. At just 19, Denswil has just broken into the Ajax first team – understandable given that the current Eredivisie champions are currently locked in a five-way battle for the title. He made his debut in October, playing in the KNVB Cup third round before standing in for the suspended Nicolas Moisander in the league against Vitesse Arnhem. The most eye-catching thing about Denswil, though, is his free kicks. In the Next-Gen series, Denswil scored this one against Inter Milan, and seems to have developed quite a penchant for the dead ball– he scored from one on his Ajax debut against ONS Sneek in the cup.
Niall Farrell is our correspondent at Tolka Park, covering the goings-on at Shelbourne. You can visit Niall's website for further information and contact details- niallf.net.