In Rotherham, near Sheffield, metallurgy has long been the lifeblood of the city, and the New York Stadium is built on the site of a former foundry. Saturday July 23, Corinne Deacon’s Bleues will need a steel mind in the quarter-finals of the Euro. The task does not look easy against the Dutch, holders of the continental title and finalists of the 2019 World Cup. Even if the Oranje have less mastered their subject since the start of the tournament in England, with an inaugural draw against Sweden (1- 1), followed by a laborious success against Portugal (3-2) and a qualification snatched in the last minutes of the match against Switzerland (4-1), caution is in order.
“They are used to big events and have the experience of having won a title”, notes Olivier Echouafni, who was French coach at Euro 2017. Ten of the twenty-three European champions are still present for this Euro. And if the workforce has been remodeled, the current players are no less dangerous. Among them is Vivianne Miedema, top scorer in the history of the selection at only 26 years old (94 goals), back for these quarter-finals after having tested positive for Covid on July 12.
A powerful midfielder
The “Orange Lionesses” can also count on a powerful midfielder, with Sherida Spitse, 32 years old and more than 200 caps, as a metronome. “The environment is the major strength of the team. They have been playing together for a long time, which gives a certain stability, with also Jackie Groenen, who recovers a large number of balls., notes Dutch defender Anouk Dekker, European champion in 2017 but not selected this year.
These qualities in the midfield are noticeable from the young categories. “These are very playful, well-organized teams, often with a good midfielder, a good leader and a good striker”, notes coach Gilles Eyquem, who often faced the Netherlands with the France under-19 team.
For Anouk Dekker, another strong point of the Dutch is at the level of set pieces: “ With Sherida Spitse in charge who can lay the ball on the free player, this sector creates chances and allows them to regularly score goals. » The Dutch have scored four of their eight Euro goals from free kicks or corners. “This will be a sector of play to watch very closely for France, at times in difficulty in terms of marking”, points out Olivier Echouafni.
Even if 12 of the 23 players selected for the Euro play in the Dutch championship and lack international experience, it was two young players who paved the way for the quarter-finals. Coming into play in the second half, when the score was tied (1-1) in the last group match against Switzerland, Victoria Pelova (23) and Romée Leuchter (21) pulled their teammates out of a bad step. The two Ajax Amsterdam players turned the game around in the last ten minutes, scoring three goals.
Expected success in the battle of the stands
However, the blows of fate seem to have dogged the Netherlands since the start of the competition and coach Mark Parsons has to deal with the absence of a number of key players. Goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal suffered a shoulder injury in the first game, followed by winger Lieke Martens, new recruit from Paris-Saint-Germain and crowned best player of Euro 2017, who forfeited in due to a foot injury against Switzerland.
If Vivianne Miedema should be fit for the quarter-final, it is difficult to know if she will be in full possession of her faculties after being bedridden by the Covid, with fairly strong symptoms. During a training session on Wednesday, the noh 9 and captain was forced, for lack of energy, to eat between two exercises.
« If it does not play, the team loses the one who can score and take the offensive initiatives », notes Anouk Dekker, while emphasizing that a possible absence « could give a good opportunity to a player less known by the opponent and create a surprise effect ».
If the Dutch workforce advances towards this quarter-final with few benchmarks on the ground, it could however find some in the stands thanks to its supporters. Coming in droves during the first round – nearly 2,500 tickets sold at each meeting – the Oranje will certainly win the battle for the stands, even if they will be a little less numerous in Rotherham: only 600 are expected.