FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup

Smits: I'm proud to play for this Netherlands team

FC Twente player Joelle Smits during the match Ajax - Twente (women) KNVB semifinal Ajax - Twente (women).
© imago images
  • Joelle Smits has hit 55 goals in 51 Eredivisie appearances
  • She discusses missing out on France 2019 and her U-20 Women's World Cup hopes
  • Vivianne Miedema and peanut butter are also on the menu

21 appearances, 25 goals.

That’s what Joelle Smits scored for Twente in 2018/19 – and what proved insufficient to seize the teenager a place in the Netherlands squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup™.

“I always have hope and dreams, but I focus only on my own performances and I didn’t expect to get called up,” she candidly told FIFA.com.

And Smits has no complaints. The Netherlands did, after all, win six successive games to reach the France 2019 decider, where they examined an exceptional USA side before losing 2-0.

“They did a good job,” Smits said of Sarina Wiegman’s Oranjeleeuwinnen. “They won the European Championship two years previous. It’s always difficult to maintain the same level of results, but the team did a good job and reached the Final.

“I watched the most of the games with my team-mates and coaches of the under-19s, because we were in the preparation for the European Championship.”

Those preparations bore fruit. Smits registered two goals and an assist in a 5-0 thrashing of Norway, which helped the Netherlands book one of Europe’s four berths at the 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

“I got a very proud feeling,” said the 19-year-old. “It is always good to be in the team and realise targets. This was one of our targets.”

Smits already has U-20 world finals experience, having played as an 18-year-old at France 2018.

“I enjoyed it with the team,” she said. “Unfortunately I didn’t play every match, but it was a good experience for me personally. And it was a new experience to play against different countries who have different styles of play.”

The likes of Klara Buhl, Geyse, Patri Guijarro, Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Kerolin, Claudia Pina, Lena Oberdorf, Sophia Smith and Georgia Stanway played at that tournament.

“Patri Guijarro and Georgia Stanway,” she responded when asked who stood out for her. “Both are great players.”

Smits recently made her first appearances for the newly-formed Dutch U-23 team. Predictably, she did what she does habitually: scored goals. Three in back-to-back games against Sweden.

“It is a very good feeling to play for your country,” she said. “And It’s a new team for the Netherlands, so I feel proud to play for them. And it gives me a very good feeling to start in the team like this. The way we like to play is promising.”

The transition from the U-19s to the U-23s was not the only one Smits has recently made. After firing Twente to their third Eredivisie title last season, she made the surprising move to uncrowned PSV, who are not in this term’s UEFA Women’s Champions League and already housed a top-class No 9 in Katja Snoeijs.

“PSV are nearer to my house and my family,” Smits explained. “It was a new challenge for me, because Katja was already playing at PSV and she is a good striker to play alongside.

“I can play as an out-and-out striker or as a second forward. I have a very good feeling with the staff and the way PSV like to play.”

Smits, who boasts a seldom knack of scoring with both feet, has exploded out of the blocks in Eindhoven, netting ten goals in the Eredivisie’s first six rounds. They have PSV six points clear of both Twente and Ajax at the summit. She’s not, nevertheless, getting carried away with the clamour for her to earn a senior Netherlands call-up.

“I just focus on my own performances,” she said. “I want to make the best out of it every day and I hope to make it into the squad someday.

For now, Smits is content to keep “practising a lot” and maintaining the fitness levels that enable her to showcase the non-stop, hard-to-track movement for which she is renowned.

A consummate pro… well, aside from one guilty pleasure. “I just love peanut butter,” she concluded with a giggle.

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