The road to Canada
The Netherlands had cause to rue conceding a late equaliser to Belgium in their fifth game in Group 5 of the European qualifying competition for Canada 2015. In the end, those two dropped points were all that separated the Dutch from section winners Norway. Aside from that draw and an away defeat to the Norwegians, the Oranje Leeuwinnen won all their games in the group, a record that was good enough to give them a place in the play-offs as one of the four best runners-up. After disposing of Scotland 4-1 on aggregate, the Dutch faced Italy in the play-off final, with a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg leaving their hopes hanging in the balance. Vivianne Miedema came to the rescue in the return leg, however, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win that secured the Oranje a place in the women’s world finals for the very first time.
Strengths and style
Though only 18, Vivianne Miedema is the Netherlands’ star asset. Having sharpened her finishing skills in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, she struck 16 goals in the qualifiers, including all three of her side’s goals in that play-off final. Her energy and enterprise is 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. The Dutch have also been reaping the rewards of the 2012 merger between the national championship and the Belgian league, which led to the creation of the BeNe League, comprising the top teams from both countries. In building on the third place they achieved at the 2009 UEFA European Women’s Championship and gaining valuable experience on the domestic front, the ambitious Dutch have now muscled their way into the global elite.
Roger Reijners did not take long to adapt to his first job in women’s football. After taking over in 2010 from Vera Pauw, who led the Oranje to their maiden European finals and a place in the last four, the former Fortuna Sittard and MVV Maastricht midfielder achieved his first objective by steering his team to the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013. Though the Dutch failed to progress beyond the group phase, Reijners, whose only previous coaching experience came in stints with the only two clubs he played for, was able to lift his players and inspire them to a successful world finals qualifying campaign.
FIFA Women’s World Cup record
- Canada 2015 is the Netherlands first appearance in the finals.
What they said
“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,” Roger Reijners, Netherlands coach