The Netherlands won their first major women’s international tournament after defeating Denmark 4-2 in a mesmerising display of attacking football in Enschede over the weekend.
A 28,182 person sea of orange covered the stadium in record breaking fashion. It was the highest attendance for a women’s game in the Netherlands. Dutch legend Marco van Basten was in the stands alongside the well respected but controversial Louis van Gaal. Legends of the men’s game showing their support in an already electric atmosphere was a great sight for all to see. Prior to the final the Netherlands had never reached the final of a major tournament with their best overall performance coming during the European Championships in 2009. They reached the semi-final. France and previous holders Germany were touted as favourites before the competition with the Dutch remained largely un-fancied but once France and Germany bowed out, the Dutch continued to steam roll their way through the competition. The Dutch had reached the final after winning all of their games in the tournament while conceding just once in five matches.
It didn’t go according to plan in the early stages of what was a very open game though. Kika van Es was caught off guard as she brought Sanne Troelsgaard tumbling to the ground. Nadia Nadim dispatched the spot kick oozing with confidence as Denmark took an early lead. Denmark wouldn’t hold the lead for long though as Shanice van de Sanden’s blistering run down the Danish left gave her the opportunity to cross the ball to Vivianne Miedema who slotted home at the far post. Dutch player of the tournament Lieke Martens took the ball on the edge of the area, turned and fired a low shot into the bottom right of the Danish goal to leave Stina Lykke Petersen wondering how that squeezed in.
For some reason the Dutch struggled to keep hold of their lead as the Danes kept pressing for an equaliser in a game that was end to end from beginning to end. Denmark captain Pernille Harder lead by example and managed to bring her side back on level terms in the 33rd minute. Harder broke down the right hand side on the break in plenty of space before cutting back inside to fire home with her left foot as Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was left rooted to the spot. The first half ended in a stalemate with both teams entertaining throughout.
It was the type of game that required a team to score first if they stood any chance of winning the game. The Dutch came out of the blocks early and firing on all cylinders in order to achieve this. Their high pressing, attacking style had worked wonders for them in this tournament as their manager had gotten her tactics spot on every time. Dutch captain Sherida Spitse took the initiative with what looked a rather tame but nicely placed free kick into the bottom right corner of Petersen’s goal. If you look closely you could see the Danish goalkeeper take one step to her right and thus un-balanced and unable to react quickly enough to Spitse’s free kick. Petersen did redeem herself in the 61st minute as Miedema’s volley was superbly saved at close range. A possible contender for save of the tournament perhaps.
Denmark pushed for an equaliser but found themselves coming up short as they failed to test Veenendaal enough in the second half. It was all over by the 88th minute as a through ball to Miedema meant she was one on one with Cecilie Sandvej as she fainted left and then moved right before powering home the Netherland’s fourth goal of the game. The crowd roared with delight as it meant that the Dutch were going to be crowned Women’s European Champions.
The final was a game that really showed what the women’s game is all about and what it is capable of. With the Netherlands they have a group of players who, despite being un-fancied, outperformed every other team in the tournament and did so in such an attractive, attacking style of play. Martens deservedly won the official Player of the Tournament award but Miedema couldn’t pip England’s Jodie Taylor to the Golden Boot award and without a doubt be cursing Petersen for pulling of such a great save.
However, the summer is not over for women’s football as the Under 19 European Championship is currently being held in Northern Ireland.