Written By: Helena Wang
Return to Team Guide and Players to Watch at the 2015 World Cup main page
On November 27th, 2014, the Netherlands women’s soccer team qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in history (1). This is the best team the Netherlands have ever seen, as the squad is currently ranked number 12 in the FIFA World Ranking (2). Given the great form this team has been in on their road to the 2015 World Cup, there are high expectations for the team to go far in the tournament. Young, strong and motivated, the Netherlands women’s team will be a force to be reckoned with in Canada.
History of the Netherlands Women’s Soccer Team
Known as the Lionesses, the Netherlands national women’s team played their first official international match against France in 1971 (3). This is relatively late compared to their European peers. While their male counterparts started playing soccer in the late 1890s, the Dutch women’s team was not inducted into the KNVB, the Royal Dutch Football Association, until 1972 (4). As soon as KNVB embraced women’s soccer, there was an explosion in membership in the association as many women’s team excitedly joined.
The first competitive games between Netherlands’ teams took place in 1974, where enthusiasm for football was the basis for the Dutch women’s football championship. It was shared by players, coaching and a large crowd of supporters or fellow villagers. Since this championship, Dutch women’s soccer has not been the most successful. Playing in the hardest association, the European UEFA, the Netherlands failed to qualify for the final tournament of the UEFA Women’s Championship from 1984 to 2005 (5). In 2009, the team qualified and reached third place, which is their best tournament result. In 2013, they qualified again, but did not advance after the group stage. However, these results are promising for the Dutch team, as it shows slow but sure improvement in the team.
Since the improvement in results, the amount of female players in Holland has more than double between 2007 and 2012 (6). In 2007, KNVB started a professional Premier League for women, which, in 2012, became the BeNe League, combining the top teams from Holland and Belgium. This led to a unique transfer in Dutch football in December 2013 – midfield player Sheridan Spitse became the first Dutch female player to be ‘bought’ by a foreign club in Norway. This transfer of a Dutch international to a major foreign league shows that the Netherlands’ team has been increasing in status.
As the team continues to make its mark on the international level, a new generation of very talented players has given a boost to the team’s performance as well as the game’s exposure in the Netherlands.
The Road to Canada 2015
Placed in Group 5 with Belgium, Greece, Albania, Portugal and Norway, the Netherlands had cause to rue conceding a late equalizer to Belgium in their fifth game of the European qualifying competition. In the end, those two dropped points were all that separated the Dutch from section winners Norway (7). Aside from that draw and away defeat to the Norwegians, the Lionesses won all their games in the group, which was a record that was good enough to give them a place in the play-offs as one of the four best runners-up. The Dutch handled Scotland very well with an aggregate scoreline of 4-1. The Dutch then faced Italy in the play-off final. In the first leg at home, the Dutch drew Italy 1-1. In the second leg, the Dutch pulled an upset to win against Italy 2-1 to secure the Oranje a place in the women’s World Cup for the very first time (8). Not only was it historic for the team, but it also displayed the development of women’s football in the Netherlands – the first leg of their play-off final with Italy was watched by a Dutch women’s record crowd of 13,100 in The Hague (9).
The entire 2nd leg game between Italy and the Netherlands
Looking Ahead: 2015 World Cup
The Dutch have been reaping the rewards of the 2012 merger between the national championship and the Belgian league, the BeNe League. They have been able to compete with the top teams from both countries through this league and this has led to a stronger Dutch side. Additionally, the Oranje have been continuously building on the third place they achieved at the 2009 UEFA European Women’s Championship. Add that to their gains in valuable experience on the domestic front, the Dutch are now considered part of the global elite.
Coach Roger Reijners took over in 2010 from Vera Pauw, who led the Oranje to their maiden European finals and a place in the last four. Coach Reijners was able to steer his team to the UEFA Women’s 2013 Euros. While the Dutch failed to advance out of the group phase, Reijners was able to lift his players and inspire them to a very successful World Cup qualifying campaign. Reijners has said about his team,
“We matured an awful lot at the 2014 Cyprus Cup and we really progressed. We’ve built on that with this historic achievement. Qualifying for the World Cup is a massive step forward in the development of women’s football in the Netherlands.”
Not only will it be a massive step for women’s football in Holland, but the World Cup squad is also a great example of a team with a mix of talented youth and experienced veterans. 18 year old Vivianne Miedema will be one of the Netherlands’ biggest asset with her upbeat energy and tempo (10). She will provide the perfect foil for the experience of Manon Melis, Sherida Spitze, Dyanne Bito and Claudia van den Heiligenberg, who have amassed more than 400 caps between them. With a great squad with all levels of experience, the Dutch hope to do well on their very first World Cup campaign.
Player to Watch: Vivianne Miedema
Although she is only 18 years old, Vivianne Miedema, also known as Viv to her teammates, is the star to watch for during the 2015 World Cup. Having sharpened her finishing skills in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, she played a huge role in helping the Dutch qualify for the World Cup. Miedema scored 16 goals in 13 appearances in the qualifying round, including all three goals for the Netherlands against Italy in the play-off final (11). In league play, she has scored 41 times for SC Heerenveen in the BeNe League last season before joining Bayern Munich.
Miedema has been playing soccer since the age of 5, when she played on the boys team (12). When she was fourteen, she made her debut in the professional team of Heerenveen, becoming the youngest player to make a debut in the highest level of women’s football (13). She made her senior international debut at the age of 17 and scored a hat-trick in only her second appearance. Miedema says,
“When I get the ball in front of goal I don’t overthink things. I know exactly what I need to do.”
Her ability to be a clinical finisher in front of the goal has drawn her comparisons with great Dutch men strikers, such as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie. In fact, Miedema is a huge fan of van Persie, and owns her ability to score with both feet to the famous striker. She says,
“I’ve always looked up to him and wanted to be a striker just like him. I’ve always been right footed but he’s a left-footer. That’s why I started trying to do everything with my left too. Van persie’s the player I’ve picked up the most from by watching him.”
Her ability to score with both feet has helped her team through the qualifying rounds and now she is very much looking forward to the tournament. Miedema says about the World Cup,
“I want to be fit and really want to play there. I’m not going to say that we’ll end up being world champions but we have a good chance of going beyond the group stage. From there we’ll see how far we can go… [The tournament will] be great. I think and I hope that there’ll be a lot of spectators there and that there’ll be a fantastic atmosphere. Games like that are the reason you play football in the first place. I’m really looking forward to it. (14)”
Getting to know Vivianne Miedema
The young star has a lot of pressure to perform well, given her proven track record. Her main task in Canada will be to score as much as possible and lead her country throughout the tournament. Miedema is a player that has just begun her career and it will be very exciting to continue to watch her as she progresses through this path as a great striker.
How to cite this page: “Netherlands” Written by Helena Wang (2015), World Cup 2015 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/players-to-watch-at-the-2015-womens-world-cup/netherlands/ (accessed on (date)).
1. Allison McCann, “USA Draws The ‘Group Of Death’ In 2015 Women’s World Cup,” FiveThirtyEight, last modified December 6, 2014, http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/usa-draws-the-group-of-death-in-2015-womens-world-cup/.
2. “Netherlands FIFA World Ranking,” FIFA, last modified 2015, http://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/associations/association=ned/women/index.html.
3. “Women’s football in the Netherlands,” KNVB, last modified 2015, http://english.knvb.nl/oranje/women.
4. “125 Years of Dutch Football,” KNVB, http://home.knvb.nl/125-jaar/tijdlijn/.
5. “Netherlands women’s national football team,” Wikipedia, last modified 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherlands_women’s_national_football_team.
6. Martine Prange, “Changing the Landscape of European Football: women football’s transformative effect on Europe’s public sphere analysed by way of the transnational BeNe League case,” FREE Conference, April 2015
7. “Netherlands: Profile,” FIFA, last modified 2015, http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/teams/team=1884883/index.html.
8. “Netherlands Summary,” Soccer Way, last modified 2015, http://int.women.soccerway.com/teams/netherlands/netherlands/4119/.
9. Paul Saffer, “Europe’s Women’s World Cup hopefuls,” UEFA, last modified December 3, 2014, http://www.uefa.com/womensworldcup/news/newsid=2190545.html.
10. “Anna Miedema,” UEFA, last modified 2015, http://www.uefa.com/womensworldcup/season=2015/teams/player=250049072/index.html.
11. Tim Grainey, “Women’s World Cup 2015 Preview,” Tribal Football, last modified 2014, http://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/womens-world-cup-2015-preview-4057691#.VUJVNq1Vikr.
12. “Vivianne Miedema a new Dutch star for the National team,” Women’s Soccer United, last modified July 24, 2014, http://www.womenssoccerunited.com/vivianne-miedema-new-dutch-star-national-team/.
13. “Vivianne Miedema,” Wikipedia, last modified 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivianne_Miedema.
14. “Miedema: I play very differently to Robben,” FIFA, last modified March 10, 2015, http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/news/y=2015/m=3/news=miedema-i-play-very-differently-to-robben-2556714.html.
Return to Team Guide and Players to Watch at the 2015 World Cup main page