When the Dutch women's national team last beat the United States in 1996, 15 of the 23 players had not yet been born. Victory was not imminent either on Wednesday night into Thursday, but no one really cared about that in the Dutch team. The most important conclusion was that the gap with the USA, a four-time world champion who had previously come to the World Cup “only” to win the title, was smaller than ever.
“Is that a gap with America? No, that's not there anymore. We're now 50/50 and I think we're great,” said top scorer Gil Rohr. Jackie Groenen: “I don't want to keep repeating that, but we've really shown that we can Beat anyone. No, the world has not gotten rid of Orange yet.”
International talent at home
Four years ago there was a hopeless defeat (2-0) in the World Cup final in France, but in Japan during the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games (2021) the Dutch team was close to victory. Lieke Martens then missed a penalty just before the end, and then the penalty shootout was missed. The most important question at the time was: Was this just a coincidence, or were relations between America – a country that had been playing women's football for years – and Europe changing?
The latter appears to be the case. The United States still has world-class talent in Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman, among others, but with the Netherlands' positional play, Andris Juncker's side are serious candidates for this World Cup.
“If someone gives us space to pass the ball from orange to orange, then we are simply the better team. We also have that confidence against the number one player in the world. At one point, we were exposed to an inside football attack (Chance Esmee Brugts, ed.). And we also have that confidence against the number one player in the world. At one point, we were exposed to an inside football attack (Chance Esmee Brugts, ed.).,” Juncker joked. “If he had come in, I would have gone in right away.”
The national coach played a major role in bridging the gap with the World Summit. After analyzing the group, Juncker concluded that attack is the Netherlands' best defence. With a 3-5-2 system, with Victoria Pelova and Esmee Brugts as full-backs, it allows everyone to use their full potential.
“Of course, it was a very ambitious goal to ensure that within a year you could also play football against America, which would make people in the Netherlands happy in their living rooms at night. It is not yet possible to outperform America, but we have shown: this is what “We can do it, that's what we want. Our quality is attacking. If we have to go backwards, we're really not that good. But when we play forward we're very good.”
Lekki Martens Renaissance symbolism
The symbol of the renaissance is Lieke Martens, who is once again very happy after playing “more or less left back” under Mark Parsons, as she herself said of the World Cup. “Born again? I think I'm gaining more strength, yes. I hope I can shoot on target soon, because I haven't been able to yet, but I'm important in positional play. We're always looking for a free midfielder, and if it's not me, “He's another guy. When we play bravely, you see we can play good football. I'm really proud of the team. Really well done.”
The Dutch national team is now heading towards the round of 16 with great confidence, although the match against Vietnam, which has already been eliminated, awaits it on Tuesday. A draw is enough, but a big win could mean qualifying for the group and returning to Sydney. Not the first, but the second in the group that includes Sweden, Italy, Argentina and South Africa.
“We want to go back to Sydney, but I think about Vietnam differently than many others,” Juncker says. “We don't have to score a lot, we have to win above all. They only lost 2-1 to Germany in preparation and this World Cup 3-0 to the United States. So, it's not 13-0, as many people thought beforehand. It won't It's a cakewalk and we have to be really sharp.
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