Ahead of what will be an intriguing friendly with England tonight, we take a look at how the current European champions are shaping up for another tilt at a major tournament. They might be aiming to go one better than their 2019 World Cup runners-up finish but with a new boss and recent patchy form, Euro glory is not assured, writes Rachel Roberts.
Group C – Netherlands (holders), Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal
The Oranje not only experienced the thrill of home tournament triumph when they beat Denmark 4-2 in the Euros final in 2017 but ended a period of German domination. After following this with their runners-up finish to the USA at the 2019 World Cup, they are one of Europe’s top teams with a current ranking of fourth in the world.
The 2017 competition was a high for women’s football in the Netherlands: all of their fixtures sold out with an attendance of over 110,000 across their six, unbeaten games – a then-record for a nation at a Women’s Euros. This year’s tournament marks the first time their men’s and women’s national team players will be paid equally.
With an average age of 25, there is plenty of experience present to aid the 10 players making their tournament debuts this summer. Defenders Aniek Nouwen and Lynn Wilms both enjoyed league and domestic cup success last season, with Chelsea and Wolfsburg respectively. The duo are the only ones in the list of debutants who have more than 10 international caps so far.
Eredivisie champions Twente are well represented, with keeper Daphne van Domselaar and defenders Marisa Olislagers, Caitlin Dijkstra and Kerstin Casparij. Further domestic interest can be found in Ajax forward Romee Leuchter, fresh from winning the KNVB Women’s Cup, as well as PSV striker Esmee Brugts and ADO Den Haag goalie Barbara Lorsheyd. Midfielder Damaris Egurrola was a central figure of a Lyon side just crowned Champions League winners. For any perceived lack of national team experience, these players know how to win trophies, and will be seeking to add international silverware to their collections.
If you are looking for international experience however, Lyon midfielder Danielle Van de Donk (123), prolific Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema (108), Ajax midfielder Sherida Spitse (199) and Lieke Martens (133), who won four titles last season with Barcelona, all have over 100 caps for their country, so there is a good balance to be found within the squad.Embed from Getty Images
Captaining the team is PSV’s Sari van Veenendaal, who was named the best keeper at the 2019 World Cup and at Fifa’s The Best awards that same year. She, along with defenders Stefanie van der Gragt and Dominique Janssen, midfielders Jill Roord and Jackie Groenen, and forwards Renate Jansen and Lineth Beerensteyn, complete the list of the 11 players to have featured in both the successful 2017 tournament and the World Cup final two years later.
Atletico Madrid defender Merel van Dongen and Ajax midfielder Victoria Pelova, who experienced their first major tournament at France 2019, round off the 23-player squad. Collectively, they will be hoping these experiences can set a strong foundation for another memorable tournament next month.
Euros squad list
Goalkeepers: Daphne van Domselaar (Twente), Barbara Lorsheyd (ADO Den Haag), Sari van Veenendaal (PSV).
Defenders: Kerstin Casparij (Twente), Caitlin Dijkstra (Twente), Merel van Dongen (Atletico Madrid), Stefanie van der Gragt (Ajax), Dominique Janssen (Wolfsburg), Aniek Nouwen (Chelsea), Marisa Olislagers (Twente), Lynn Wilms (Wolfsburg).
Midfielders: Danielle van de Donk (Lyon), Damaris Egurrola (Lyon), Jackie Groenen (Manchester United), Victoria Pelova (Ajax), Jill Roord (Wolfsburg), Sherida Spitse (Ajax).
Forwards: Lineth Beerensteyn (Bayern Munich), Esmee Brugts (PSV), Renate Jansen (Twente), Romee Leuchter (Ajax), Lieke Martens (Barcelona), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal).Embed from Getty Images
Manager: Mark Parsons
The Englishman was named as Wiegman’s successor last May. He has experience coaching in America, at Washington Spirit and with Portland Thorns, where he won the NWSL Championship in 2017 and the NWSL Challenge Cup last year.
Preparations for this summer has seen a mixed bag of results under new manager Mark Parsons. Participation in the Tournoi de France in February saw the Dutch draw 1-1 with Brazil, defeat Finland 3-0, and then lose to France 3-1 in the final. In April, they thrashed Cyprus 12-0 in a World Cup qualifier, before beating South Africa 5-1 in a friendly. The scorelines against Brazil and France are the most significant. These nations are ranked ninth and third in the world respectively, and it is the results against this calibre of team that the Netherlands need to be judging themselves on.
Tonight they reunite with Parsons’ predecessor, Sarina Wiegman, in a friendly against England at Elland Road. The 52-year-old guided the Oranje to Euros glory and through their impressive World Cup run, before swapping the Dutch Lionesses for the English ones. A repeat of the 2017 semi-final that produced a 3-0 victory for the Netherlands, it is a game that will be a real test of their Euro credentials. We’ll soon find out if these teams are ready to challenge fellow contenders on the big stage.
There are then two games remaining for Parsons’ squad to finalise their Euros preparations – another World Cup qualifier against Belarus next Tuesday and a friendly with Finland on the Saturday.Embed from Getty Images
Star player: Vivianne Miedema
Miedema is one of the biggest names in the game. A complete striker, she is the all-time leading goal scorer in the WSL, and with 92 goals and counting for the Netherlands, she is outright her nation’s highest goalscorer, across both the women’s and men’s game. Miedema is in fine form, coming off a season where she netted 14 times in 22 appearances for Arsenal in the league. At the last Euros, she narrowly missed out on the Golden Boot with four goals and you can expect the influential forward to have set her sights on claiming the accolade this time around.
Group C fixtures
Saturday, July 9: Netherlands v Sweden, kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday, July 13: Netherlands v Portugal, kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Sunday, July 17: Switzerland v Netherlands, kick-off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Must-watch game: Netherlands v Sweden
Games don’t come much bigger than the team currently ranked second best in the world facing off with the reigning European champions. As it stands, the Swedes are unbeaten in 2022, and have one final friendly fixture against Brazil next Tuesday before kicking off their tournament with this tantalising clash. Victory here would be a statement of intent from the Dutch.
2013: group stages
The Dutch are undoubtedly one of the best sides in the tournament, but the untested nature of their new manager and their patchy form does raise doubts as to whether they’ll be able to win back-to-back titles, especially as they go up against the likes of Sweden, France, and an England side who will enjoy the same kind of boost from a home support that helped propel them to glory five years ago. While they have great experience in tournament settings, and Miedema can be unstoppable in front of goal, we predict the Netherlands will ultimately fall short in their title defence by being knocked out in the semis.
Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellrobertts