After the blow in Barcelona, ​​Van Bommel and Antwerp want to make up their minds: “I am happy that my young group has already experienced this”


After the forfeit defeat in Barcelona, ​​national champion Antwerp picks up the thread in their own country with a home match against RWDM. What Mark van Bommel was able to do on autopilot at the time – switching from a top European fixture to a weekday competition match – many of his players still have to learn. “Everyone says: ‘You’re only playing against RWDM’, to which I answer: the PhD candidate has ten points.”

The day after Barça-Antwerp, the Spanish media were disparaging about the Belgian national champion. Van Bommel says the hilarious comments here and there did not bother him. “The Greek press even did it when AEK Athens lost to us 1-0,” the Antwerp coach grinned during his press chat on Friday afternoon. “It’s all part of European football. And it also makes sense if you lose 5-0. Then you can write as a newspaper: ‘It made no sense at all’. Only: as a trainer you have to be able to see through that.”

And that is what van Bommel did. The Dutchman re-examined his team’s match. “We were in the game well for the first ten minutes. However, you have to be super concentrated in the defensive moments and be lucky that the 0-0 stays on the board for longer. That didn’t happen. Against a club like Barcelona, ​​small details become big details. The world’s top punishes every mistake. Of course 5-0 is a lot. And a tap. Yet it is much easier to get over this, because it was almost logical that we lost.”


Van Bommel called the loss educational. “On Tuesday we found ourselves in a situation that we rarely find ourselves in. The opponent had so much quality on the field that we had to act very quickly with our hands and feet. With a young group like ours, I have to be happy that she has already experienced this. As a team you will now recognize things more easily. As I said before: to be experienced by experiencing.”

Chairman Paul Gheysens called the defeat a wake-up call, an opportunity to recharge. “It is now clear that the focus must be completely on football again,” the president added. “That 5-0 did not have to do with a lack of focus or side issues,” Van Bommel countered on Friday. I have seen other matches, including between Belgian teams, where the difference was not that big and there was no win either. Wasn’t the focus there too?”

Antwerp is now shifting its focus to RWDM. From a European top meeting to a duel against the newcomer in the first division. How did Van Bommel deal with that as a player at the time? “Over the years at Barça, Bayern and AC Milan, I eventually did that on autopilot. This situation is new for my group of players. Traveling, playing against Barcelona, ​​getting so much attention… Then everyone says: ‘You’re only playing against RWDM, the PhD candidate.’ No, the PhD candidate has ten points.”


Van Bommel expects RWDM to maintain its position in the first class. “The PhD candidate is doing smoothly, and you can see that in all countries. When I analyze RWDM, I recognize a clear style of play with a strong trio (Mercier, Biron and Gueye, ed.) that determines what happens with the ball. We will prepare our boys for that as always.”

Van Bommel also indicated that no one from the group returned from Barcelona injured. Björn Engels, Sam Vines and Jakob Ondrejka will not return to the selection in the short term. Ondrejka was missing from the team photo on Thursday. The attacking midfielder is partially recuperating in his home country of Sweden, in consultation with the medical staff.


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