Group E Preview: Netherlands is darkhorse with talented front four

In no European country is a women's national team more popular than in the Netherlands.

Group E:
Canada (5)
Netherlands (8)
New Zealand (19)
Cameroon (46)
Note: In parentheses is FIFA ranking (as of March 29).

The Dutch hosted and won Euro 2017, turning heads at home and across the world of women's soccer with their stylish play.

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 -- a 4-2 win over Denmark -- included Marco van Basten, who won the men's European Championship in 1988, and legendary coach Louis van Gaal.

The Netherlands struggled in qualifying -- it took Europe's last berth with a aggregate win over Switzerland in the playoff finals -- and finished last out of 12 teams in the 2019 Algarve Cup, but the Leeuwinnen served notice on Saturday when they delighted the 30,640 fans at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven with a 3-0 win over Australia in their send-off game.

Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman, who played at North Carolina, has one of the most talented front fours in the tournament: Danielle van de Donk (Arsenal), Lieke Martens (Barcelona), Shanice van de Sanden (Lyon) and Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal).

In its first appearance in the World Cup four years ago, the Netherlands made the second round, In 2019, the Leeuwinnen will be one of the darkhorses.

You should be pulling for ... Canadian Christine Sinclair heads to Women’s World Cup with Canada for the fifth time with 181 goals in 282 games, putting her within three goals of the international record — among men or women — former U.S. star Abby Wambach holds. She still holds the NCAA record for most goals in a season, scoring 39 goals in 25 games for Portland in 2005.

You'll soon find out all about ... Vivianne Miedema is only 22 years old but already has scored 58 goals in just 75 appearances for the Netherlands and 137 goals in 158 games in her club career with Heerenveen in the BeNe League, Bayern Munich and Arsenal, where she set the Women's Soccer League scoring record for a single season with 25 goals in 2018-19. She started playing when she was one and a half, kicking a ball around with her father when he took a break at the restaurant the family operated in the small city of Hoogeveen.

Record book ... 12. New Zealand has gone 12 games without a win at the Women's World Cup, the most of any team.

SA Confidential: Tom Sermanni on taking New Zealand to the Women's World Cup on short notice

Progress report ... Soccer opportunities for women in Cameroon, so Indomitable Lioness Gaelle Enganamouit, who plays for Spain's Malaga, decided to do something about it. She started the Rails Foot Academy, which provides coaching, jerseys, training equipment, a physiotherapist, and guidance counseling for around in Yaounde, where she grew up.

Monday, June 10
3 pm Canada-Cameroon FS1, Universo
Tuesday, June 11
9 am New Zealand-Netherlands FS1, Universo
Saturday, June 15
9 am Netherlands-Cameroon FS1, Universo
2:50 pm Canada-New Zealand FS2, Universo
Thursday, June 20
Noon Netherlands-Canada Fox, Universo
Noon Cameroon-New Zealand FS1, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo
Note: All time ET.

Photo: Philippe Bouchard/Icon Sportswire

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