In Rotherham, near Sheffield, metallurgy has long been the lifeblood of the city, and New York Stadium is built on the site of a former foundry. On Saturday 23 July, Corinne Deacon’s Bleues needs a steely mind in the quarter-finals of the European Championship. The task does not look easy against the Dutch, continental title holders and finalists of the 2019 World Cup. Even though the Dutch have less mastered their subject since the start of the tournament in England, with an inaugural draw against Sweden (1 – 1), followed by a difficult success against Portugal (3-2) and a qualification in the last minutes of the match against Switzerland (4-1), caution is advised.
“They are used to big events and have the experience of winning a title”, notes Olivier Echouafni, who was French coach at European Championship 2017. Ten of the twenty-three European champions are still present for this European Championship. And if the workforce has been revamped, the current players are no less dangerous. Among them, Vivianne Miedema, top scorer in the squad’s history at just 26 years old (94 goals), is back for these quarter-finals after testing positive for Covid on July 12.
A powerful midfielder
The “Orange Lionesses” can also count on a powerful midfielder, with Sherida Spitse, 32 years old and more than 200 caps, as the metronome. “The environment is the team’s great strength. They have been playing together for a long time, which gives a certain stability, with Jackie Groenen also recovering a large number of balls., notes Dutch defender Anouk Dekker, European champion in 2017 but not selected this year.
These qualities in the midfield are noticeable in the young categories. “These are very playful, well-organized teams, often with a good midfielder, a good leader and a good striker”, notes coach Gilles Eyquem, who often confronted the Netherlands with the France under-19 team.
For Anouk Dekker, another strong point of the Netherlands is at the level of set pieces: “ With Sherida Spitse at the helm who can put the ball to the free player, this sector creates opportunities and allows them to score regular goals. » The Dutch have scored four of their eight European Championship goals from free kicks or corners. “This will be a game sector to watch very closely for France, sometimes in difficulties in terms of markings”, points out Olivier Echouafni.
Even though 12 of the 23 players selected for the European Championship play in the Dutch championship and lack international experience, it was two young players who paved the way for the quarter-finals. In the second half, when the score was tied (1-1) in the final group match against Switzerland, Victoria Pelova (23) and Romée Leuchter (21) pulled their teammates out of a bad step. The two players of Ajax Amsterdam turned the game around in the last ten minutes with three goals.
Expect success in the battle for the stands
However, the blows of fate seem to have haunted the Netherlands since the start of the competition and coach Mark Parsons is dealing with the absence of a number of key players. Goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal suffered a shoulder injury in the first game, followed by winger Lieke Martens, new Paris-Saint-Germain recruit and crowned best player of Euro 2017, who was forfeited to Switzerland due to a foot injury.
Whether Vivianne Miedema should be fit for the quarterfinals is hard to say whether she will be fully in possession of her abilities after being bedridden by the Covid, with fairly strong symptoms. During a training session on Wednesday, the nOh 9 and captain had to eat between two exercises due to lack of energy.
“If it doesn’t play, the team loses the one who can score and take offensive initiatives”, notes Anouk Dekker, but emphasizes that any absence “can give a player less known to the opponent a good chance and create a surprise effect”.
However, if the Dutch workforce with few benchmarks on the ground advances to this quarter-final, it will be able to find something in the stands thanks to its supporters. In droves during the first round – almost 2,500 tickets sold per meeting – the Orange will certainly win the battle for the stands, even if they will be slightly less numerous in Rotherham: only 600 are expected.