The flying Dutchman

Friday 26 July 2002

Looking through the squad list, you'll be hard pressed to find a player with more experience of European and international football than Edwin van der Sar.

He's played in virtually every major club competition, including the Intertoto Cup with Juventus; so the Fulham stopper can be considered something of an authority on playing in European competition.

Having completed the recovery from his elbow operation, Edwin was back to his best in last weekend's match at Craven Cottage.

Nothing typified his game more than one moment in the second half. With the match still scoreless, Edwin made a world-class reaction save to prevent an almost certain goal.

With the Whites looking to advance through to the semi-finals for a possible encounter against Sochaux, van der Sar ran the rule over Fulham's season so far.

"So far we've had three of four weeks of hard training. I'm nearly fully fit, I've been training with the team for the last four weeks. It's been a lot of work to get the elbow back to 100 percent.

"The first two games against Haka were not exactly brilliant; in fact I'd go as far as saying they were bad," said van der Sar.

"But the game against Egaleo was a little bit better. We scored and kept a clean sheet and in European games that's vital.

"In the first half, Egaleo were very defensive but after 15 minutes of the second half they brought on someone else to play alongside their striker. After that they looked like a different team and played with a bit more aggression.

"It's going to be a difficult game in Athens but if we keep our heads, concentrate and manage to score a goal. It will be hard for them to score three times."

One of the major worries ahead of the match in Athens was the temperature, however with the match now taking place in the evening, Egaleo's advantage in that particular department should be nullified - much to van der Sar's relief.

"I've played matches in Italy in 35 degree heat, and it's not funny playing football in those conditions. It can be an advantage to play at night."

Turning his attention toward Fulham's forthcoming Premiership campaign, Edwin identified Fulham's goalscoring column as the main area that required improvement.

"Defensively we were OK last season, we had a lot of chances to score but it didn't happen. I'm hoping that Louis Saha will be more prolific than he was last season. I think Sava is also quite a good player but he has to adjust a bit more.

"Facundo isn't a fast player but he's good in the box and a good header of the ball. He's got a good touch; if you play the ball to him, he can hold on to it and give it to a player in a free position. He's made a few appearances for us, and in training he's shown some good skills."

Fulham's performances so far this season have indicated that with a greater level of match fitness, the goals should be more forthcoming, hopefully starting on Saturday.