The Netherlands may have beaten Sweden en route to winning the last Women’s Euro and reaching the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but the feeling that they will be relieved to survive this high-octane clash with the finalists 2021 Olympics only underscores how difficult it is to call the likely winners of this tournament.
A record crowd for a Women’s Euro group game not involving the hosts of 21,342 saw two of the match’s superpowers face off in a match that would not be out of place if replayed in the final. “I hope so,” said Vivianne Miedema, the Dutch striker. “But…Sweden are one of the favourites, England are also up there. I think we can give anyone a good game on our day. I like to see that we are the horse black and we can just enjoy our tournament.
Louis van Gaal, coach of the Netherlands men’s team, watched his nation struggle after a groggy first half, in which Sweden deservedly led thanks to Jonna Andersson’s goal, to behave more like herself by recovering a draw thanks to the equalizer of Jill Roord.
The total number of fans in the first six games of this tournament has already surpassed the total of 117,384 attracted by the previous Euros that England staged in 2005 and, on the quality seen so far, they will soon exceed all records.
While the second half was much more level play, the Dutch were still grateful to Daphne van Domselaar, their substitute goalkeeper, for pulling off a fine diving save to parry Fridolina Rolfo’s powerful driving minutes from the full-time.
With Arsenal striker Miedema finally freed after being blocked in the first half, the Netherlands showed plenty of craftiness and creativity after the break, but their first-half performance, allied to the England’s recent 5-1 thrashing in a hot-up game at Elland Road, suggested that all is not well in a camp of superstar names and personas.
The 2017 champions lost two players to injury in a spoiled first half. Sari van Veenendaal came on for a clear shot but injured her shoulder hitting both the ball and Stefanie van der Gragt. There was a delay of several minutes and, with the PSV Eindhoven keeper still playing nine minutes, she had to be replaced by Van Domselaar.
Sweden sensed the Dutch weren’t going all out and enjoyed great success down the flanks thanks to their full-back system in the first half. Kosovare Asllani helped create the goal with great skill.
The Real Madrid striker hit Chelsea centre-back Aniek Nouwen after being brushed aside by Sweden’s superb pass, down the right wing and collected the ball for Andersson to control at the far post before heading home. the House.
The goal was not more than deserved by Sweden and also served to open the game, much to the delight of the neutrals. Daniëlle van de Donk completed a half-volley at one end as the Dutch tried to force their way through, either side of Lina Hurtig closing in with two brave headers. In the first, Nouwen injured her ankle and had to be substituted.
If it was the Dutch who suffered at this stage, they came out fired up for the second half and equalized in seven minutes. Miedema started shooting deep behind the Swedish full-backs and worked his magic down the right wing with a superb dummy. She then followed her own pass to grab a rebound and when her intended pass was deflected, Jill Roord pivoted to shoot past Hedvig Lindahl for the first time.
When asked if it was a lost chance or a good point won, Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson replied: “Somewhere in between. The feeling is always disappointed when you don’t win the game.
Mark Parsons, the Netherlands coach, said: “There’s more to come bringing our attacking qualities because it was fun to see when Viv and others got the ball back, Sweden wanted just let it go and they were scared. We have to be braver to get those moments of course, but when you lose your captain and when you lose a central defender – the mindset and the emotions, it’s going to be everywhere.