The Dutch footballers have won the last practice match for the European Championship, but a week before the start they are definitely not on track to extend the title. The game in the Grolsch Veste in Enschede was not very dynamic, often sloppy and Finland regularly showed that the defense is vulnerable.
The team was shocked on Friday by the news of former national coach Vera Pauw. She said she was raped as a young player 35 years ago by a KNVB official. She would later be sexually assaulted twice by union employees.
According to national coach Mark Parsons, some experienced players on the team were told in advance that this news was coming. “Everyone was reading it at the same time,” he said of when he came out. “It’s shocking and sad to hear, and of course you try to stay focused on why we’re here tonight, but Vera was on a lot of people’s minds tonight.”
According to Sherida Spitse, who made her debut under Pauw sixteen years ago, the team nevertheless managed to focus on the game. “That this happened to him is painful. Of course, we read and discussed it for a while, but we were mostly occupied with this game and the European Championship.
Last adversary farewell
Finland were an excellent final farewell opponent on paper, strong enough to train well, but clearly a category below the Netherlands. The country also participates in the European Championship in England, but is relatively low in the FIFA rankings with 29th place. Only Portugal (30), against which the Netherlands play in the group, and Northern Ireland (47) do less well.
In February, the Netherlands won 3-0 against Finland at a training tournament in Finland. National coach Mark Parsons then opted for a team with a lot of inexperienced young players, but just before the European Championship he no longer dares to do that.
The Englishman has included many newcomers in his selection, but for the moment we hardly find them in his basic formations. The latest matches almost entirely match those of her predecessor Sarina Wiegman. From the starting lineup of her last match, the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games against the United States, ten women were on the field on Saturday evening. Only Spitse was there now, but he wasn’t included in Japan due to injury.
Lots of bullet loss
The experienced eleven, in almost fluorescent orange, failed to convince in the first half. Last week, the Netherlands lost 5-1 to title favorites England in Leeds. Then the Netherlands got off to an aggressive start, but the team completely fell apart in the last half hour. Against the far lesser Finland everything was much more restrained, according to Parsons it was deliberate because the Netherlands trained against the first strong opponent of the European Championship, against losing Olympic finalists Sweden, it must be defensively in order.
Parsons therefore settled for zero goals conceded, but offensively it was not enough. It went well until the sixteenth, but due to inattention and missed crosses, it rarely led to real opportunities. Daniëlle van de Donk notably stood out with numerous loss of balls, which is not surprising since she was back in the starting line-up for the first time after a long injury.
The first goal came more or less after half an hour when Jackie Groenen managed to find Vivianne Miedema with a fine pass. The Arsenal striker took matters into his own hands, ran into the box and shot hard into the right corner.
This goal did not provide relaxation, despite the sober intentions, Finland got the best opportunities. The team showed where the Netherlands are vulnerable, especially through emerging full-backs and wingers. The defense barely manages to get rid of the balls. A smarter opponent will soon be able to take advantage of this.
After the break, Parsons brought in two new full-backs, Marisa Olislagers and Kerstin Casparij from ‘local club’ Twente, but the game was little changed. In the 70th minute, the 2-0 fell when substitute Victoria Pelova managed to hit Miedema with a subtle pass, which netted her second of the game. It was one of the few highlights of the second half.
The footballers still have a week before playing against Sweden. In the group, they also meet Portugal and Switzerland. With this opposition, a place in the quarter-finals should be possible, but to survive you will have to be much better than in Enschede.
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