Babel pays tribute to best vintage

Monday 25 June 2007

by Berend Scholtenfrom Euroborg Stadion

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Ryan Babel told uefa.com that the Netherlands crop which won Saturday's UEFA European Under-21 Championship final are "a better team" than the Jong Oranje side which triumphed in Portugal last summer.

'Even better'
Named the Carlsberg Man of the Match for his part in the 4-1 final win against Serbia that saw Foppe de Haan's side retain their crown, the AFC Ajax striker said: "They kept saying this year's squad lacked the quality of last year's team, but results seem to prove that wrong. I think we did even better then last year, because last year they lost one match and we didn't lose any so this is a better team. Playing at home was important and having the fans on our side during the whole of the tournament was a really great feeling."

Uphill struggle
Babel scored the all-important second goal in Groningen and set up the third for Maceo Rigters - his fourth in five games, to make him the finals' top scorer - but was quick to share the credit with his team-mates for their overall performance. "It gives me a good feeling to get the award, but I did not do this on my own, so I am very proud of the whole team," Babel said. "It wasn't easy, especially in first half, but in the end we deserved to be champions."

'The turning point'
The Netherlands had been going through a rocky patch before Babel scored to double their advantage on 60 minutes, and he agreed his strike had helped his side clinch the title. "I think my goal was the turning point," he said "Serbia gave us a hard time and were physically very strong. Luckily we were able to take the lead but after we went 2-0 up I felt that we weren't going to give it away. After that it was easier and we could play our own kind of game again."

'The right way'
The only disappointment of the final for the 20-year-old was that he missed the chance to score again from the penalty spot, with his 71st-minute effort drawing a great save from Serbia No1 Damir Kahriman. "I think I played a reasonably good match, although I could have done better," said Babel. "I knew which way I was going to put the penalty but unfortunately the keeper went the right way."

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