Olympics Preview: Netherlands

The Netherlands (pictured above via @oranjevrouwen) have reached their last two major finals and many suspect they pose the biggest threat to the USA at the Olympics. Abi Ticehurst previews the Dutch side.

Squad News:

This squad is unlikely to have raised too many eyebrows with selection. Danielle Van de Donk often goes under the radar because she’s not a prolific scorer or a flair player, but any opportunity to talk about her and those cheeky nutmegs, count us in. The front three, Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens and Shanice van de Sanden are menaces in front of goal, 141 goals between with Miedema counting for more than half with 73.

A driving force midfield with all five selected players capable of getting on the scoresheet. However, a devastating blow hit the team just the day before the tournament is due to kick off as captain Sherida Spitse, is ruled out due to an injury, she will be replaced by ​Joelle Smits.

Keepers: Sari van Veenendaal, Lize Kop, Loes Geurts

Defenders: Lynn Wilms, Stefanie van der Gragt, Aniek Nouwen, Merel van Dongen, Sisca Folkertsma, Kika van Es, Dominique Janssen, Annouk Dekker

Midfielders: Danielle van de Donk, Victoria Pelova, Jackie Groenen, Inessa Kaagman, Joelle Smits.

Forwards: Jill Roord, Shanice van de Sanden, Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens, Lineth Beerensteyn, Renate Jansen

Coach:

Above: Dutch head coach Sarina Wiegman. Photo: @oranjevrouwen

Sarina Wiegman – She is arguably Dutch football royalty, a central midfielder come defender, she made her international debut at 17 and was the first Dutch footballer to win 100 caps.

She spent her youth career at various Dutch teams ESDO, Celeritas and KFC ’71 before being spotted by Ansen Dorrance and recruited for North Carolina Tar Heels where she would play alongside Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly for a year. She returned to the Netherlands to play for Ter Leede for 10 years. She won the Dutch Cup twice and the KNVB Cup once during her tenure, before retiring.

Wiegman has gone from stride to stride in terms of her managerial career, initially taking over at Ter Leede and then ADO Den Haag before making her way through the ranks of the national team. She was awarded The Best FIFA Women’s Coach title in 2017, in the same week she was accepted as a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau as a result of winning the Netherlands Women’s first European Championship title and first ever major honour within women’s football.

In 2019 a statue of Wiegman was erected in the garden of the Dutch Football Association, KNVB, for her contributions to Dutch football. She was the first woman to receive this honour. She is consistently praised by fellow football managers for the style of play she has developed with the squad. Finally, unless you’ve been living under a rock for at least the last year, she is of course, the next England manager, officially replacing Phil Neville with her tenure beginning in November of this year.

Olympics History:

It may be surprising to know that the Netherlands Olympic History is fairly short in chronology. The Netherlands failed to qualify for the World Cups between 1996 and 2012, therefore failing to make it to the Olympics.

In 2016, they qualified for the World Cup and competed in a mini-tournament for an Olympics place, however Sweden won the tournament and the Dutch were unfortunately eliminated. A change in fortunes saw them make it to the World Cup Final and and as a result made it to the Olympics for the first time to compete at Tokyo 2020.

Qualifying:

As above, they made it to the World Cup Final in 2019 and therefore qualified for the first time to compete at Tokyo.

Strengths:

Positional awareness, the team are able to hold their shape well despite consistently pacey attacks. Sari van Veenendaal, the powerhouse between the sticks.

Development Areas:

Potentially their lack of high level international experience, though not new to world football, their limited ability to qualify until recently may prove a challenge on the big stage. Losing their captain, it will take a big personality to fill the boots of Spitse.

Above: Lieke Martens. Photo: @oranjevrouwen

Key Players:

Viv Miedema, the all-time leading scorer in the FAWSL and for the Netherlands. Need we say more? Fresh from the Champions League winning Barcelona squad, Lieke Martens is a terror in front of goal, the link up between her and Miedema will undoubtedly be a satisfying display of talent. Jill Roord was prolific for Arsenal during the 2020/21 season and takes that cool calmness on the ball with her to the international stage, she’s capable of commanding the midfield and confident to strike at goal.

One to watch:

Aniek Nouwen, she’s a defender with 15 goals in 69 appearances to her name with Dutch side PSV. Impressive. She’s played internationally at every level from U17’s before making her senior debut in 2019 and scored her first goal in October of 2020, one of seven which saw the Dutch side qualify for Euro 2022. She signed a three year contract with Chelsea in May and will make her first appearance for the club in the 2021/22 season.

Prediction:

They should find qualification out of the group stages fairly straightforward, Brazil is their main competition in Group F. They’re on a trajectory of international success though so don’t rule them out of the latter stages of the competition.

Above: Vivianne Miedema and Jill Roord. Photo: @oranjevrouwen

Group Fixtures inc KO times (local/UK)

21st July v Zambia (Miyagi Stadium, Rifu, 12:00pm UK)

24th July v Brazil (Miyagi Stadium, Rifu, 12:00pm UK)

27th July v China (International Stadium, Yokohoma, 12:30pm UK)

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