We are now on the last team in the second to last group in the World Cup Countdown, and the tournament is only a few weeks away. Let’s take a look at the Netherlands!
The Netherlands, also called the Oranje Leeuwinnen (the Orange Lionesses), come into this tournament grasping onto one of the last straws, having had to qualify for the last spot. The Euro winners, who claimed the title on home soil in 2017, have only qualified for one World Cup before and that was Canada 2015, where they didn’t get further than the round of 16. But this time around they will come in with some confidence, having beaten several tough teams to get to that last sweet qualification spot, and surely the magic of their Euros win still linger over them. They played Northern Ireland twice, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and Norway, winning every game but the one against the Scandinavians, which was enough to place them only second in the group, after Norway who qualified directly. This meant they had to qualify for that last spot, playing both Denmark and Switzerland over two legs, winning both games 4-1 on aggregate.
When looking at the Leeuwinnen squad, there is one star that shines very bright indeed. Lieke Martens, the midfielder/forward who is one of the best female footballers in the world, has been the one leading her team through the qualification process. With her dribbling skills and her intelligent plays, she contributes a lot on the field and not just in terms of goals. She was a vital cog in the team that won the 2017 Euros and she was voted The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2017. We also have an up and coming star that just doesn’t seem to be able to stop scoring. The young but already oh-so-mature Vivianne Miedema scored seven goals in the nine games she represented the Netherlands in on their qualification journey, and in England, where she represents Arsenal in the WSL (Women’s Super League), she was the top scorer of the season with 22 goals in 20 games. Talk about lethal!
Danielle Van De Donk, a teammate with Miedema in Arsenal, will also be an integral presence in the team, as she can contribute with vital goals as well as set her teammates up thanks to her creativity on the pitch. Shanice Van Der Sanden, Lineth Beerensteyn and Sherida Spitse are other important influences contributing with goals.
Defender Kika van Es spoke to FIFA about the importance of the Euros win and what an impact it’s had on the team in terms of expectations, and the perception of women’s football in the Netherlands.
“We want to be underdogs and we are telling everybody that because this is only our second World Cup.
“The World Cup is so different to the EUROs, being world champions will be very difficult, so we see ourselves as underdogs, which is better for us,” she said.
“Before the EUROs, nobody knew who we were, and then a month later it was crazy.
“Little kids can now dream of being a professional and it’s now easier to play football with other girls. We also showed parents that football is also for girls, not only for boys.
“For us, we think it’s good that we are playing in the north of France, so a lot of Dutch fans can come and support us. I think it is going to be a great World Cup and a great year,” she continued.
Head coach Sarina Wiegman is one of the reasons for the team’s huge success, and she’s had a massive impact on the team since she arrived in January 2017. With only a few months to go until the Euros kicking off on home soil and after having been an assistant coach and interim coach to the national side during several years, it was finally her time at the helm, and she did a fantastic job leading the team to victory at the Euros, raising the confidence and the attitude of the team and encouraging them to play a more attacking style of football, which took well amongst the group of players and they gave back to their coach by playing very attractive and winning football.
The team seems to have a strong and successful identity with the 4-3-3 formation, allowing their creativity to flood on the wings and build from a strong defensive foundation.
The Leuuwinnen has had a few games leading up to the tournament. They won against South Africa 2-1 back in January, they featured in the Algarve Cup where they lost against Spain and Poland, and drew 1-1 with China, winning on penalties. They’ve also played Mexico and Chile in two friendlies, winning 2-0 and 7-0, and are going up against Australia in a send-off match before the tournament begins in France, that game being played on the 1st of June, kick off 18:15.
That’s a wrap on our Orange Lionesses, who will go up against some tough competition in group E. How do you think that they will do? Let us know in the comment section!