Orange start FIFA World Cup as ‘an under-topper to fear’

With what status will the Orange Women start the World Cup when they kick off against Portugal in Dunedin, New Zealand on Sunday morning? As favorites for overall victory, what would justify their stature as vice-world champions? As an underdog? Or as an underdog, which, given their current position in the world rankings – ninth – would be a more realistic qualification?

No top selection

Andries Jonker, chosen last August to succeed dismissed national coach Mark Parsons, sees the Orange as a feared under-chief. “I deliberately chose not to say that we will become world champions,” Jonker said. “I don’t think that’s realistic either. There are other countries that have more top players in their squad. That can be said of defending champions USA, who sat with the Netherlands in the World Cup final four years ago, but also Germany, France and England, who became European champions last year under national coach Sarina Wiegman.

We also remember the difficult qualification for the World Cup of the Netherlands, at the beginning of September, when Jonker was able to breathe a sigh of relief after a breakaway against Iceland. That was only beaten well into injury time thanks to a lucky goal from Esmee Brugts. It was a good illustration that the 2017 European champion was in a difficult phase. How did Orange, who failed in the quarter-finals of the European Championship last year, recover?

Jonker (60), someone with a lot of experience in men’s football, brought the fun back to Orange. He also clarified. The Netherlands must be able to play two different systems in New Zealand and Australia, says Jonker. In addition to the familiar 4-3-3, a 5-3-2 system has also been worked on, in which full-backs (Pelova and Brugts) can join the attack.

hunger for success

The opening match with Portugal is a good test for Orange from the outset. Especially for defense. In the center, presumably made up of Spitse, Van der Gragt and Janssen, are not the fastest players. Portugal, which qualified for a World Cup for the first time in history after a play-off against Cameroon, responded with fast forwards. The team also showed this at the European Championship, when the Netherlands just managed to win 3-2 in the group stage.

Another question: how hungry are Dutch players for success? Based on the expected line-up, six core players were already there in 2017, when the Dutch team became European champions in their own country. Can the thirties of the selection recharge their batteries or is there saturation? Without all-time top scorer Vivianne Miedema, who is recovering from a knee injury, the Netherlands against Portugal must avoid putting a lot of pressure on the second pool game against the United States, world number 1 who have won the last two World Cups.

In any case, the preparation for the World Cup is turbulent, which makes you think how seriously the KNVB and the world football association Fifa take the Women’s World Cup. For the third time there were problems with a field. After a canceled training match at Escharen in Brabant, where there were rocks and glass on the pitch, and a pitch in Sydney that looked like a carpet, Jonker had to complain about the training ground allocated by Fifa at Tauranga in New Zealand. This is normally used for cricket and therefore has a hard plate in the middle.

The Netherlands are the only World Cup country to play on such a pitch, according to an ANP tour. “Top amateurism,” said the national coach. The KNVB examined six other alternatives, but without result. “It’s not ideal preparation for our first game,” Jonker lamented.

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