Well, because all of you were following the women so enthusiastically and asked me for a post on them, I will… :-). I had posts about De Ligt, Arjen Robben and others prepared but sure… the Dutch Lionesses did amazingly well and do deserve this.
There is a lot of negative stuff and overly critical stuff we can say about the women. Which would be unfair. It’s like comparing an Under 15 game of boys with a CL match between Man City and Barcelona. It simply is another type of game when boys play, or when women play it. And once you accept that, you can also accept the weak shots on goal and the clumsy mistakes some still make.
But, amongst all of that, winning silver is still a superb result and deserves our respect.
So, lets discuss them!
Coach Sarina Wiegman (49) is already being compared to coaches like Michels and Van Marwijk. Professional, composed, keen to learn and tough.
Now, every coach is as good as the material available and when you have star Martens, goal machine Miedema, midfield engine Groenen and wingers like Van de Sanden, it does become easier, but after the WC we do need to admit that coach Wiegman is probably the real superstar of this squad.
Wiegman demonstrated to be an excellent manager. She knows her football, she is a great communicator and she is realistic about where her team is, in their development.
She also makes the tough decision and despite that, all the players – even the benchwarmers – repeat it whenever they can: Wiegman is extremely important for the development of the Lionesses. Wiegman created a strong unified team, with a strong willingness to fight.
How did the coach herself experience the World Cup in France? A couple of themes below, with Sarina’s comments…
“I think we were in it, until Team USA scored. That penalty was like an uppercut. And we became sloppy and gaps started to appear. And yes, we analysed them well and we knew they had fast wingers and penetrating midfielders and we had to play a more defensive game. We thought we could hurt them through the middle with speed and this is why I used Beerensteyn there. We played a 4-4-1-1, basically. And it did work, defensively, but offensively we didn’t create enough. I think the win for Team USA was the right result, really. But, we are still terribly disappointed. But also proud. In 2009, it was our first European Tournament. We had our WC debut in 2015 and now we reached the finals, s… The world has changed around us. That was something to experience. And we have performed under pressure, so I am happy. But now we need to keep on developing. Next time, I want to beat Team USA!”
The Quality of the Play
“During the European Championship in 2017, we went from surprise to surprise. No one expected us to win it. It was a big party in Holland, but the World Cup is even bigger… But we had to adapt. At the Euros we could play an offensive game and for the WC qualifications we had to deal with teams parking the bus. And at the WC tournament, we had to play different styles and cultures. Everyone expected us to be better on the ball and this needs to improve. Our opponents analyse our games and are astute enough to derail our tactics. Tactically, this WC was tough and the pace is so much higher. The reason why we were not as good, had a lot to do with the opposition. But what we did really well this time is scoring from dead ball situations. We weren’t so good in the past at this, and we worked so hard on it. And it worked out. We also scored some excellent open play goals, but at the top level you simply get less opportunities.”
“I never used the criticism we got as a motivator for the players. We are just more visible now, we get more exposure. The attention we get is actually really positive and really fun. People take us more serious now. Expectations changed. We used to be an underdog, now we are a contender. Criticism is part of our life and top players need to get used to this.”
Shanice van de Sanden
“Shanice is a very important player for us. She had tremendous impact with her assists and goals. But she had a tough tournament. She had trouble finding space and wasn’t as decisive with crosses. And our subs have played an important role in this tournament so when you do have a Beerensteyn on the bench, I have to use her when I can, right? And I can’t be the nice coach. I need to be tough and it’s hard for me too. I had to tell Anouk Dekker and Kika van Es that they would be starters but they all accepted their role and supported the team. I tip my hat for Shanice as she was subbed but we needed her to come on for us vs Sweden and did a top job!”
“Yes we are fighters. We always put in a lot of effort. My period in the US will have contributed to that. The US has a culture of working hard. We have a tremendous drive in our team, the will to win and to do it together. Those are strong weapons. We had tough times in this tournament but we hung on and fought for a result and once that works, it’s easier to bring that again in the next match. And you create a culture of winners. The US is a world class team, alright. But now, we can say: so are we!”
The Orange Fans
“The support was incredible and all those fans…. and it helped us tremendously. Make no mistake. They were in Rennes, in Lyon, In Valenciennes… Very special. And it gave that little bit extra motivation we probably needed at times. I once visited Shanice for a CL game of Lyon and I was impressed, 50,000 people! And again when we played there. We are starting to get used to that now, hahaha.”
“It’s super that we are going to the Olympics. It’s a bit thing in Women’s Fotball. And as a coach, I can now make a dream come true. All the Dutch top sporters together. That is special. We’re a small nation, but we have a huge sports heart. I will become terribly patriotic at the Olympics, I’m sure…”
“I didn’t get too emotional. I was quite relaxed during the Sweden game, I needed to be able to observe and analyse. I don’t think I’m helping the team when I’m running around like a mad woman. I was most emotional when we won the quarter finals. That meant we can go to Tokyo. That was an ambitious objective for us. Reaching the finals here and the semis before and qualifying for the Olympics, those are massive achievements for us. I have to pinch myself regularly and ask, is this all for real?”
“I think I was a bit more controlled at this tournament, more than usual. That I had to train. I was never a controlled person, I was a pitbull as a player and I had to work hard on this. We have prepared ourselves enormously and this helped me to stay calm as well. I did everything I could to make this work and that is all you can do. I observe better with a clear and peaceful mind. I won’t divulge who I work with, but it works. I do think we had pressure on the team and that is all new for us. The players had to cope with this. And I told them, be brave. Play! And don’t bother what the world says. But it’s easy to say of course. But when you can’t achieve it with good football, at least go in for a fight. And now we do have a team that will always show up.”
“There is enormous potential in Dutch Women’s football. But the infrastructuur and facilities were lacking. When the Eredivisie started in 2007, we entered into a new phase. And now the players make or have made big steps into the big European world of football. It all start with belief and that we have. We have gained a lot in confidence. And we can be proud. Yes, we had some fortune at times but you make your luck too, sometimes. This World Cup will hopefully bring more impetus to the game in Holland.”