NEC Nijmegen on Course for Dream Season under Rogier Meijer

Three years after suffering relegation from the Eredivisie, NEC Nijmegen hired Rogier Meijer in June 2020. He led them to promotion in his first-ever managerial campaign before guiding them to 11th in their return to the top-flight and narrowly avoiding the drop, before finishing 12th, albeit a comfortable 11 points clear of the relegation playoff. Today, NEC find themselves in dreamland at the Goffertstadion, and they are 90 minutes away from claiming the first major trophy in club history.


NEC find themselves in sixth place going into the international break, with a good chance to match their best-ever finish of fifth in 2002/03. They sit two points behind Ajax, 10 behind AZ Alkmaar, two points above Go Ahead Eagles and three above Utretcht, and they have found the back of the net on 50 occasions so far across 26 matches — only PSV, Feyenoord, AZ and Ajax have scored more — and conceded 40 goals thus far.



Rogier Meijer favours the rotation of his starting eleven with the team having a blend of experienced players in the mix such as 37-year-old Danish defensive midfielder Lasse Schöne, Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen (34), Dutch striker Bas Dost (34), Surinamese midfielder Tjaronn Chery (35), Dutch center back Bram Nuytinck (33) and 27-year-old Senegalese winger Sylla Sow.


The team has shown no signs of slowing down with 13 goals in their last six games despite the departure of the club’s top scorer in Magnus Mattson, who joined Copenhagen on deadline day after racking up 11 goals and 4 assists. Koki Ogawa joined on loan from Japanese second-tier outfit Yokohama FC, and he has racked up 7 goals and 1 assist so far in the Eredivisie, whilst ex Ajax man Sontje Hansen has chipped in 3 goals and 3 assists and fellow Dutchman Mees Hoedemakers has registered 4 assists since joining from Eerste Divisie side Cambuur.


NEC Nijmegen have failed to win a single major trophy in their 123 years of existence, but that could change on April 21 as they face off against 13-time champions Feyenoord in the KNVB Cup Final. Feyenoord, who won last season’s Eredivisie title, will be hosting the final at De Kuip. Having lost in the 1972/73, 1982/83, 1993/94 and 1999/00 cup finals, NEC have a chance to right their wrongs and achieve history in Rotterdam.



Meijer’s side have scored 18 goals and conceded 6 in the cup, a run that has included a 6-1 thrashing of Tweede Divisie side GVVV Veenendaal in the second round on December 20 and a 2-1 win over Eerste Divisie side Cambuur in the semi final on February 27, with Koki Ogawa grabbing a much-needed equalizer in the 60th minute of the encounter after Cambuur drew first blood through a 24th-minute strike by Latvian forward Roberts Uldrikis.


At worst, NEC will likely book their ticket to the Europa Conference League play-offs — a privilege awarded to fifth through eighth in the Eredivisie — with the club sitting five points above ninth-placed Fortuna Sittard. At best, they’ll win their first-ever major trophy, reserve their spot in next season’s Europa League group stage, and avenge last season’s Round of 16 defeat that saw them draw 4-4 to Feyenoord, only to lose 5-3 on penalties. Either way, NEC are headed for their first European qualification in 16 years, and they have a golden opportunity to write their name in the annals of Dutch football history.