Netherlands women’s coach reflects on 2019
Dutch team end the year with perfect record in Euro 2021 qualifying
Women’s Olympic Football Tournament next on the horizon
The final few weeks of the year always provide an opportunity to take stock of the past 12 months, and for Sarina Wiegman, the review of 2019 is likely to be extremely positive.
The head coach of the Netherlands women’s national team steered her side to a runners-up medal at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ and also rounded off the year at the top of UEFA Women’s European Championship 2021 qualifying Group A with six wins from as many matches, as well as 28 goals scored and just three against.
Asked for her standout moment of 2019, Wiegman did not hesitate in reply: “The World Cup final against USA, no question.”
Despite suffering defeat in that showpiece encounter in Lyon, Wiegman cannot disguise her enthusiasm for the tournament. “It was the biggest event of the year,” she said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “I really enjoyed watching great players in action and, above all, watching my team and the Americans, who were sensational. The excitement of qualifying for the competition, our opening match against New Zealand and of course the final in front of 60,000 fans in Lyon… the atmosphere and the energy were just spectacular.”
The Dutch team’s achievements earned Wiegman a place among the three finalists for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach 2019 award, which was ultimately won by her USA counterpart Jill Ellis.
How many times has she watched the final again? “Only once, actually,” she replied with a smile. “I will watch it again, of course. But it took me a couple of days… well, to be honest it was actually a couple of weeks before I felt recovered enough and was able to find the time to sit down, watch it and analyse what happened.
“I always find things to improve on,” she continued. “Even in the games we win comfortably. But in that final I don’t think there’s much we could’ve changed. We were close. We stopped USA from scoring an early goal and we had some chances ourselves, but in the end I think they were the better team and they deserved to win.”
While Wiegman may have missed out on this year’s The Best FIFA Women’s Coach prize, she did win it in 2017 after guiding the Netherlands to the European Championship title that year, a tournament that left an indelible mark on her.
“I’ll never forget the opening match against Norway,” she said. “The stadium was completely decked out in orange. Our fans made it an absolutely unforgettable tournament. We weren’t expecting so much support, but they were there from the very first game and they were a great extra motivation for us.
“Winning the final was of course extraordinary and then the parade the next day…” she added, before running out of words to describe the emotion of the occasion.
That tournament also served as a turning point, both for Wiegman herself and for her team. “A lot of things have changed since then,” she said. “We’re no longer the dark horses in any competition – in fact we’re considered favourites if anything.
"We’re the team to beat. Countries want to defeat us and all of that gives us a different energy, it forces us to keep getting better. The expectations on the team have increased, there’s more media coverage and the players are more well-known now.
“The same goes for me,” she continued. “My whole world has changed and I’ve had to adapt. I’ve got a better team around me now. We showed what we’re capable of at the World Cup and we have to work hard every day to maintain that level and keep improving. And we need to improve quickly because everyone else is taking huge strides forward.”