The Women’s World Cup has shown above all how the sport has evolved in the past four weeks. On the other side of the world, in Australia and New Zealand, undeniable steps forward have been made. There was good, cohesive football to be seen and what was particularly important for the sport to grow: the number of teams of increasing level increased. Partly because of this, it also became a tournament of surprises, as, for example, Germany and number one favorites the United States were eliminated relatively early.
These are explainable shifts in pecking order, if development occurs over a broader area. 20-year-old Dutch talent Esme Bruges is used as an example in this newspaper. She followed special strength training programmes, particularly to increase her starting speed and agility. But of course she is not alone in this. Where in the early stages of women’s football only a physiotherapist was available to the players, the physical guidance of several specialists has now greatly improved for women.
The result was clear at this World Cup: explosiveness and athleticism increased visibly, and a host of impressive goals could be scored. If we look at it more narrowly, it should also be noted that Orange has become somewhat oppressed by new developments. Dutch women managed to win European Championships in 2017 on a still relatively weak field, and in 2019 they reached the World Cup final. That was not possible now.
Some talent presents itself to the Netherlands, but the core of the team is still being gradually shaped by some static players from the time of the European title. There was some hope after qualifying for the knockout stage, but no orange fever. Not only was this due to the quality of the team, but the unmarketable times were also a handicap. The Orange played three of their five matches on Dutch Night. An average of 600,000 people watched it anyway.
The stadiums were almost full at the final stage of the tournament, which is evidence of the positive development of women’s football. The realization is beginning to wane that women’s football should be judged in its own right, and should not be compared to men’s football. But somehow, looking back at the men after the World Cup raises a tantalizing question. Dutch men’s football has lost touch with international competition in the past decade due to stubbornly clinging to an outdated concept of the game for too long. It is interesting to see whether Dutch women’s football is now able and willing to adapt more quickly to international developments.
Comments are the opinion of Trouw as expressed by members of the editorial board and senior editors.
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