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Friday, April 22, 2005 

The Guus that laid the golden egg

Things have rarely looked better for PSV Eindhoven. They are running away with the Eredivisie title, preparing to play in the Dutch Cup finals and looking ahead to an improbable UEFA Champions League semi-final against AC Milan. A repeat of PSV's glorious treble of 1987/88 is still just about on the cards.

Recurring theme
In that season, PSV won the league, the Dutch Cup and the European Champion Clubs' Cup, with a penalty shoot-out triumph against SL Benfica. Current PSV coach Guus Hiddink was the man in charge at the Philips Stadion in that season too, and he has yet to rule out a repeat performance.

Minor miracle
That PSV have progressed this far is a minor miracle considering their precarious position last summer when Hiddink was forced to offload his entire strike-force. "They went to England - Mateja Kezman, Dennis Rommedahl, Arjen Robben," the coach told uefa.com at PSV's De Herdgang training complex in Eindhoven.

Talent drain
"Goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus also left and Kevin Hofland went to [VfL] Wolfsburg, so I had to find replacements in five positions," added the 58-year-old. "Seeing where we are now in Europe and in the Eredivisie, we have done very well. The new players deserve a lot of credit for adapting."

Mental strength
For Hiddink, who led the Korean Republic to the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the key to finding those replacement players was finding youngsters with the right mind-set. "When you scout players you can see their skills - but on the pitch you can also tell a lot about their mental strength," he explained.

Foreign prodigies
This scouting formula saw Hiddink sign the likes of DaMarcus Beasley, Johan Vonlanthen, Jefferson Farfán - from the United States, Switzerland and Peru respectively - and Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who have all played their part in PSV's rise from obscurity.

What's inside
Add in inspirational Korean duo Ji-Sung Park and Young-Pyo Lee and it is clear that finding classy players abroad is something of a Hiddink speciality. He explained: "When you see these players in their home countries, you have to find out what their ambitions are. You have to work out what they have inside them."

Old head
Amid all the talented youngsters, however, one old head has shone for PSV - midfield player Phillip Cocu who joined the club from FC Barcelona in the summer. Hiddink is delighted with the way the Dutch international has been playing and has appointed Cocu as one of his lieutenants on the pitch.

Tactical enforcer
"Phillip Cocu is doing an excellent job this season," explained Hiddink. "Coaches think they are important during a match, but we are not. We can only ever make three changes. So it is important to have one or two players on the pitch, with whom I can share my tactical thoughts, so they can implement them on the pitch."

Financial gap
None the less, even with his sub-alterns in place, PSV will start their tie against Milan as rank outsiders. "If you look at the finances of the two teams, I think they can spend ten or 20 times more than we can on players," said Hiddink. "But nevertheless, sometimes a small team can shock a big one."

'No fear'
"It is already quite an achievement for PSV to have been in the Champions League for the past eight or nine years," added Hiddink. "But this team has done a tremendous job so far. We have no fear, because everyone expects Milan to win, so let's see if we can spring a surprise."

Source: Uefa.com

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