Bayern Munich have had a good return on investment from Dutch attackers in recent years. Arjen Robben is the latest in a series of top-class players from the Netherlands at the club, and he is currently seemingly scoring at will, having helped the Bavarians collect title after title.
Yet suggestions that his achievements might have had something to do with Bayern’s decision to sign a Dutch forward for their women's team last summer would be wide of the mark. Vivianne Miedema's transfer to Munich was very much down to her own performances over recent months.
The 18-year-old scored 39 times for SC Heerenveen in 2013/14 to finish as top scorer in the BeNe League, and she was equally as unstoppable for the national team. At the UEFA U-19 European Championship, the blonde attacker also took the top goalscorer's crown with six strikes, netting the winner in the Netherlands' 1-0 victory over Spain in the final.
Miedema made her senior international debut at age 17 and scored a hat-trick in only her second appearance, despite only coming on as a 75th minute substitute against Portugal. "When I get the ball in front of goal I don't over-think things," the clinical forward told FIFA.com. "I know exactly what I need to do." There is certainly no denying that.
The 5'8 striker has laced her boots for Bayern in the Bundesliga since the start of the 2014/15 campaign and has already scored five goals in 11 outings. Such a tally, combined with the fact she wears the No10 shirt, have led to inevitable comparisons with her compatriot and club-mate Robben. "Yeah, I get that a lot," she said, laughing. "But Arjen plays very differently to me. It's really cool to be compared to him but, as a woman, it's a bit strange to always be compared to a man. I'm Vivianne Miedema and I don't play like men do."
I'm Vivianne Miedema and I don't play like men do.
Nevertheless, watching her in action it is difficult not to draw parallels with fellow Dutch attackers Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie, who are equally clinical in front of goal. Indeed, Miedema, who is a self-proclaimed fan of Dutch first-division side Feyenoord, has long been an admirer of Van Persie. "I've always looked up to him and wanted to be a striker just like him," she said, before explaining that she also owes her two-footedness to the frontman: "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."
Miedema's ability to play off either foot helped her find the target 16 times during qualification for the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015™, making her the leading scorer once again. In the decisive play-off tie against Italy, she scored all three of the Netherlands' goals in a 3-1 aggregate victory - a 1-1 draw in the first leg and a 2-1 win in the return fixture - helping them reach the finals of a Women's World Cup for the first time ever. And now, Miedema's eyes light up and her smile becomes even broader at the mere mention of the tournament.
*Overcoming teething problems
*“I think about it [the World Cup] almost every day,” said Viv, as she is known by her team-mates, even if she is cautious about setting the bar too high in Canada. “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 Netherlands face China PR, New Zealand and Canada in Group A, but it is the prospect of playing against the hosts that really excites Miedema: “It’ll 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.”
At Bayern, Miedema has been busy laying the foundations for future success, and despite some initial problems as she adapted to the Bundesliga, she is convinced she made the right choice - especially in terms of her development: “I’m learning a lot of different playing styles and that’s really good. I’m a lot fitter than I was last year. I’m stronger, quicker and have more stamina too.” Nevertheless, she is also well aware of the areas of her game she can still improve upon: “I’m terrible at defending.”
Her main task in Canada, however, will be at the other end of the pitch, just like it was for Robben at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, where he led the Netherlands to a bronze medal. Miedema would surely have nothing against helping her country to a similar achievement this summer, even if it would invite further comparisons with her countryman. Yet perhaps her performances could even lead to a reversal of roles, where Robben is compared to her.