Euros Preview: Netherlands

by Kris Goman (1/7/22)

Above: Netherlands lift the trophy at the end of the 2017 European Championship Final. Photo: AFP.

The defending champions and World Cup runners-up go into the tournament with a coach facing his first major international tournament and on the back of a chastening 5-1 loss to hosts England. Yet, if any team can overcome this and threaten to go all the way, it is the Netherlands.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sari Van Veenendaal, Barbara Lorgheyd, Daphne Van Domselaar.

Defenders: Aniek Nouwen, Stefanie Van der Gragt, Meral Van Dongen, Lynn Wilms, Caitlin Dijkstra, Dominique Janssen, Damaris Egurrola.

Midfielders: Jill Roord, Sherida Spitse, Danielle Van De Donk, Victoria Pelova, Jackie Groenen, Kerstin Casparij, Marisa Olislagers

Forwards: Lineth Beerensteyn, Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens, Renate Jansen, Romee Leuchter, Esmee Brugts.

The Head Coach:

Above: Netherlands head coach Mark Parsons. Photo: Rico Brouwer / Soccrates

Mark Parsons is a 35-year-old English coach who has spent his entire professional career coaching women. He spent six years at the helm of Chelsea Women Reserves before moving to the United States where his career flourished.  He was with DC United Women U20s and Washington Spirit Reserves before taking the head job at Washington Spirit in 2013, leading them to the playoffs in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. At the end of 2015, he took the head coach role at Portland Thorns where he really made his mark.

In 2016 he won the NWSL Shield but lost in the final to Western New York Flash. He was awarded the NWSL Coach of the Year that year. In 2017 Thorns won the NWSL Championship, beating North Carolina Courage in the final 1-0. In 2021 they won the NWSL Community Shield and in 2021, the NWSL Challenge Cup.

He accepted the Netherlands National Team Head Coach role in May 2021 but continued to coach the Thorns until the end of the season, splitting his time between the two teams, before moving back to England. That’s clearly been a challenge and he’s quoted as saying that the coaching is easy, “the difference is the time, which now means you have to be unbelievably efficient. The detailed planning has to be immense, I am still learning how to be more efficient”.

Being on the right side of the pond now and being available full time should make that task a little easier but with the Netherlands being the current Euro title holders, the expectations are extremely high. The recent thrashing by England means there’s still a lot of work to do and he’s said, “We will not be ready at the beginning of this tournament to win it. But the idea is we don’t have to be ready to win it at the beginning, we just have to be good enough to beat Sweden and Portugal and Switzerland.” Meeting Sweden first means he’s really going to have his work cut out for him.

Euros History:

Above: Netherlands fans celebrate their nation’s victory at the 2017 Euros. Photo: John Thys/AFP.

The Oranje Leeuwinnen (Orange Lionesses) come into this tournament as the reigning title holders from the 2017 Euros under Sarina Wiegman. This tournament was last held in the Netherlands in front of a home crowd. They’ve made it to the finals twice, before bowing out to England in the semis in 2009 and not making it out of the group stages in 2013. They made the round of 16 in the 2015 World Cup, losing to Japan, and the finals of the 2019 World Cup, losing to the all-conquering USWNT. They lost again to the USWNT in the quarter-finals at the 2020 Olympic Games.

They are currently ranked fourth in the world and the 2017 Euros win is their only major tournament win, but it changed the way their country looked at women’s football. The team are genuine superstars now and recognised in the street in their home country. One of the enduring images of the 2017 Euros is the thousands of Oranje fans bouncing side to side down the street. The scenes in Utrecht as the squad travelled through the city on canal boats was something to behold. A sea of orange is an understatement.

Lieke Martens won Player of the Tournament and went on to win UEFA Best Women’s Player of the Year and FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Sarina Wiegman also was named FIFA Coach of the Year. But the biggest honour was to be made Knights of the Order of the Orange Nassau presented by King Willem-Alexander for those who have “earned special merits for society”.

Qualifying

The Netherlands have qualified convincingly for this tournament, winning every match along the way with the following results: Turkey: 3-0 home, 8-0 away, Slovenia: 4-1 home, 4-2 away, Estonia: 7-0 home, 7-0 away, Russia: 2-0 home, 1-0 away, Kosovo: 6-0 home, 6-0 away.

Strengths

The Netherlands is a small country but has a rich footballing culture and history. That is now extended to the women’s team and they are now a powerhouse in the women’s game. The concept of total football, popularised by coach Rinus Michels with Johan Cruyff as the main exponent, is tailored to the women’s game.

There’s been a conscious decision to invest in the women’s game at all levels and it’s paying big dividends. Dutch culture is much more accepting of women’s football than most other countries and they’ve invested in the amateur leagues, raising the standard overall. Just this month the Dutch football governing body, KNVB, agreed to equal pay between the men’s and women’s national teams and it will go into effect from 1st July 2022 in time for the European Championship.

As for the team themselves, there is still a solid core from the last Euros and they have strengths in every area – goalkeeping, defence, midfield, and up front. They are quite a tall team so have an aerial advantage often. They are technical, fast, and know each other well. Combined with significant depth, they are a force to be reckoned with. The clubs they play for reads like a who’s who of the top Euro teams.

Development Areas

The one missing key is the time with the new coach and his systems. In the match against England they were exposed in defence. With Miedema not playing, although they scored first, they looked a little lost once they went behind and never recovered. Once Spitse missed the penalty, it was all over for the Dutch. Maybe they need to toughen up a little mentally but England was able to split the defence and deliver a good hiding. They’ll need to recover from that and change tactics to succeed at this Euros.

Key Player:

Above: Dutch superstar Vivianne Miedema. Photo: Instagram.

With a team full of superstars, it’s hard to pick just one but Vivianne Miedema has to be that person. The Arsenal striker has scored more goals for her country than any other person, men included. At only 25 years of age, she’s scored 92 goals in 109 caps. She holds a slew of goal-scoring records and is the top scorer in the FAWSL. Sam Kerr is arguably her only rival in the women’s game.

One to Watch

There’s a heap of players to watch but I’m going to say Danielle Van de Donk, mostly because I love watching her. She’s a feisty little nugget and won’t back down from any challenge. She’s guaranteed to get a few yellows but also create chances and may even sneak in a goal or two. Another reason to watch is that she’s just back from an ACL injury that kept her out of most of her first season with Olympique Lyonnais and she’s raring to go. 

Keep an eye on Lieke Martens too. Another playmaker who’s just left Barcelona to play with PSG. Anything can happen when she’s got the ball.

Prediction:

The Netherlands should go deep in this tournament and get through to the final. It should be the Netherlands and Sweden that make it out of Group C but of course anything can happen at these sorts of tournaments so expect some upsets.

Group Fixtures:

9th July: Sweden, 8pm, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

13th July: Portugal, 5pm, Leigh Sports Village, Leigh.

17th July: Switzerland, 5pm, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

Impetus is previewing a different nation every day between now and the start of the European Championships. Click below to read the previously published articles:

FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/

AUSTRIA – by Jorge Ceron: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/26/euros-preview-austria/

GERMANY – by Johnathan Stack: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/- https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/

ICELAND – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/28/euros-preview-iceland/

SPAIN – by Nathan Edwards: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/29/euros-preview-spain/

FINLAND – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/30/euros-preview-finland/

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