Dutch women win over a nation

For years, European women's soccer was dominated by Germany, winner of six straight European women's championships and seven of the last eight entering Euro 2017. In the early years, Scandinavian teams and Italy were contenders. More recently, France and England have built up their women's national team programs.

The 2017 championship was won by the host Netherlands. The Dutch had made the UEFA final four only once before -- in 2009 -- and never had played in the Women's World Cup until 2015 in Canada, where they won one of four games.

That the Dutch won Euro 2017 was not necessarily a surprise -- the favorites Germany and France exited in the quarterfinals -- but how they won in style, turning heads at home and across the world of women's soccer, was.

After a lackluster tournament, the Netherlands and Denmark put on a show in the final with the Dutch winning, 4-2. The Dutch had knocked off Sweden, 2-0, in the quarterfinals and England, which had eliminated France in the quarterfinals, 3-0, in the semifinals, and they finished the tournament with six wins in six games.

Vivianne Miedema scored twice against the Danes, and Sherida Spitse and Lieke Martens scored once. Right winger Shanice van de Sanden and Martens on the left and midfielder Danielle van de Donk tore apart the Danish defense.

"It was an open match," Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. "There were two teams who really wanted to play football. A match with six goals, that's very important for women's football as well."

Portland Thorns star Nadia Nadim put Denmark ahead with a penalty kick in the sixth minute, Miedema tied the score six minutes later. Martens put the Dutch ahead for the first time in the 27th minute, but Pernille Harder equalized six minutes after that. Spitse finally broke the deadlock for good with a goal on a free kick in the 51st minute.

Euro 2017 Top scorers:
Golden Boot: Jodie Taylor (England) 5 goals;
Silver Boot: Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands) 4 goals;
Bronze Boot: Lieke Martens (Netherlands) 3 goals, 2 assists.

"We've played six amazing games," said Miedema, "and today we showed that even if we get behind in a game we can still change the game. The moment we scored for 3-2, I just thought, 'It's not going to go wrong again.' We played so much better in the second half and we deserved to win the tournament."

Wiegman was only named head coach in January. She had been involved in various capacities with the national team program for three years and also worked last season at Jong Sparta Rotterdam, the first woman on the staff of a men's pro club.

As a player, Wiegman's claim to fame is that she was part of the most famous recruiting class in the history of women's soccer, Anson Dorrance's 1989 group at North Carolina that included Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly.

Wiegman played only one season at UNC. The Tar Heels went 24-0-1 en route to their fourth of a record nine consecutive national titles (1986–1994).

The Dutch men's national team missed out on Euro 2016 and is a longshot to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but the Oranje women stepped in and won over the hearts of a nation.

All six Dutch games sold out for an aggregate attendance of 110,897, a record for a team at a UEFA women's championship. Almost 5.4 million Dutch television viewers watched the final, more than 30 percent of the country's total population. Those in the sellout crowd of 28,000 for the final included Marco van Basten, who the European Championship in 1988, and legendary coach Louis van Gaal.

"It's like we're playing with 12 players with all the fans supporting us," said midfielder Jackie Groenen earlier in the tournament. "It's amazing having them behind us."

The Dutch women's league is one of the weakest of the strong European soccer-playing nations, so most of the Oranje stars play abroad: seven of the 11 starters. Goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, Miedema and van de Donk play for Arsenal; Van de Sanden moved to Liverpool in 2016.

Martens, named the player of tournament, is one of the most popular women's players in Europe with 111,000 followers on Instagram. She moved from Sweden's Rosengard to UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinalist Barcelona, marking the first time the Spanish club has paid a transfer fee for a woman.

“This is a fantastic achievement,” said Wiegman after the final. ”We have all achieved this together. There was a great click in the group between the players and backroom staff. This is fantastic. We have to let this sink in.”

The championship immediately makes the Oranje one of the favorites for the 2019 Women's World Cup in France. The average age of the Dutch starters against Denmark was just under 25, and only one starter -- defender Anouk Dekker -- is over 27.

4 comments about "Dutch women win over a nation".
  1. Footballer Forever, August 7, 2017 at 3:57 p.m.

    Congrats Dutch Women's National Team on your triumph!! To SA writers though, I am not sure if you notice it, but mentioning the Men's National Football Team for comparison or reference purposes, is an insult to Women's football for you to do so. I notice you tend to do things like that with USMNFT, why? Senseless!

  2. Tom Maegerle replied, August 7, 2017 at 8:15 p.m.

    haha yes. It never would have happened the other way around. It's just a mindset that will take many more years to overcome. Sort of like FIFA only assigning male refs to the Mens World Cup and female refs to the Womens World Cup. I'm just happy that there is continuing recognition of the achievements of the women.

  3. R2 Dad replied, August 29, 2017 at 5:26 p.m.

    Why so butthurt? Everyone's so easily offended these days--really? It's only natural to compare the two, since men's football in the Netherlands is the main sporting topic. But don't ask me, ask the Dutch--they're happy to compare the two, especially since their men seem to be lame these days and the women are playing open, attack-minded soccer. I asked my Dutch friends and they were the first to bring up their men, how they couldn't even qualify, etc etc. My recommendation to you is don't foist your cultural baggage onto other nationalities--that in itself is offensive and Europeans will be the first to tell Americans that in no uncertain terms.

  4. Shane Saulus, August 7, 2017 at 7:53 p.m.

    Congratulations to the Dutch Women's National Team for winning Euro 2017! I'm a Dutch-Indo from California who watched every game and was rooting for the team from afar. Congratulations again and enjoy every moment! You deserve it!

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