PARIS – With its team in top form, the Netherlands looks to its women’s national team with great fondness ahead of its 2019 FIFA World Cup semifinal match against Sweden.
The ‘Oranje’ has reigned in Europe since it hosted the 2017 EURO, when the team managed to thrill viewers across the continent with players like Lieke Martens, Shanice van de Sanden and Vivianne Miedema.
Now, over the past month, the whole world seems to be excited by the Dutch team.
With five victories in as many matches at the World Cup, head coach Sarina Wiegman’s in-form team is to reach a historic first World Cup semifinal.
It is the furthest the Netherlands has got in the two World Cup campaigns it has taken part in – it made the last 16 in the 2015 competition in Canada.
It now shares the last-four stage with three teams who have made the podium in previous editions: the United States – defending champion – and England, as well as Sweden – who will play the Netherlands on Wednesday.
There is no historical comparison between both sides at the World Cup, as Sweden was a runner-up in the 2003 edition, as well as taking third place twice, in 1991 and 2011.
The Oranje, however, has no fear ahead of the clash, as the Dutch team has topped Sweden 2-0 in the 2017 Euro quarters, on its way to the title, thanks to goals scored by Martens and Miedema.
The 2017 Euro host team also defeated England 3-0 in the semis and Denmark 4-2 in the final.
“Since we won the Euros we’ve become much more visible, we have more media attention for our team,” the 49-year-old coach Wiegman told media ahead of the semis clash.
For her part, the 22-year-old Arsenal forward Miedema said there is a big difference between the Euro and the World Cup, yet “in Holland everyone said ‘oh they’ll be world champions’ and that gave us a lot of pressure.”
Despite being young, Miedema has been capped 80 times with the Netherlands national team, notching 61 goals, thus far.
Swedish soccer team, by contrast, grows under the protection of veteran players; midfielder Caroline Seger, the team’s captain, and defender Nilla Fischer.
Although both are 34 years old, their play continues to nourish the dreams of the Nordic team, despite having a young squad to whom they will need to entrust their legacy.
Stina Blackstenius, 23, was one of the big heroes in the quarterfinal comeback against Germany (2-1).
“It’s about such small details but you need to be able, on the day, to perform at your best level and we managed to do that, we managed to play better than Germany,” Fischer said at the press conference.
Considering the important absence of forward Fridolina Rolfo over yellow card accumulation, coach Peter Gerhardsson intends to lead the Swedish soccer into another World Cup final and continue to feed the passion of the 2016 Olympic Games runner-up.
It will be about imposing the weight of Sweden’s history on the way to the gold-medal match, scheduled for July 7 in Lyon.
Netherlands: Sari van Veenendaal; Desiree van Lunteren, Stefanie van der Gragt, Dominique Bloodworth, Merel Van Dongen; Jackie Groenen, Danielle van de Donk, Sherida Spitse; Shanice van de Sanden, Lieke Martens and Vivianne Miedema.
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl; Hanna Glas, Nilla Fischer, Linda Sembrant, Magdalena Eriksson; Elin Rubensson, Kosovare Asllani, Caroline Seger; Sofia Jakobsson, Stina Blackstenius and Lina Hurtig.
Referee: Marie-Soleil Beaudoin (Canada).
Venue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon, France.
Time: 1900 GMT.