Van de Sanden: Marozsan is on another level

  • Shanice van de Sanden recalls her “crazy” path into football

  • She discusses Lyon’s quest for another two trophies this month

  • 2023 "will be sick" says the Netherlands attacker

When she dances, every member of the Oranjeleeuwinnen pride dances. When she smiles, the whole room smiles with her. And when she’s not at the office sporting an all-orange or all-white uniform, everyone flashes I-wish-I-could-look-like-you envy-gazes into her magnetising sphere.

Shanice van de Sanden, indeed, turns up to post-cup final dinners looking not like she’s just tore across turf for 90 minutes, but come straight from a photoshoot for the cover of Vogue or ELLE. She’s the beguilingly photogenic, uber-charismatic, daringly-dressed empress of casual-chic – Shanice van de Sanden is football’s answer to Zendaya.

Oh, and she’s arguably as creative on grass. The girl born in the same city as Wesley Sneijder and Marco van Basten has registered five assists over her last two UEFA Women’s Champions League final appearances – preposterously, one every 17.6 minutes on average.

Another cup final beckons for Van de Sanden tomorrow evening – Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France decider – while Bayern Munich await in continental quarter-finals later this month. Van de Sanden chatted to about her club’s quest for August jubilation, keeping herself fit during lockdown, her love of setting up goals, the Netherlands fans, the Tokyo Olympics and the next FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Shanice, firstly, how did you stay fit during lockdown?

Shanice van de Sanden: We had a lot of girls from the national team over in Holland – Jill Rood, Lieke Martens, Danielle van de Donk, Sari van Veenendaal, Kika van Es, Inessa Kaagman, Danique Kerkdijk and some others – so we trained with ten or 11 of us and that was quite fun. Even though we had to stay one-and-a-half metres apart, we could do some crossing, passing, running drills. That said, it was still hard to stay fit. You can do what we did, or go for a 5k run, but it’s not the same as proper football training. But if you’re mindset is alright, you’ll be fine. We had a great time. We trained twice a week together, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and on the other days I went for a run and did some gym [work] at home. And I had my girlfriend at home, so we both did some Tabata and that was fun as well.

What else did you do to keep busy?

To be honest, I really needed the space. It was tough after the World Cup and my personal life had changed a lot over the last three years, so I needed the time out. I really enjoyed it and I also took the time to change my mindset because I had been struggling for the past year. You work really hard to give your best on the pitch, and if it doesn’t work out you get angry and sad. That’s what happened to me after the World Cup, so that’s why I really needed my space during Corona. I feel better for it.

Lyon were thrown right into the thick of it with Coupe de France semi-final. Next up is Paris Saint-Germain in the final on Sunday. What do you think of PSG?

PSG against Lyon is always a big game. I’m really looking forward to it. PSG were already very strong and they’ve added some new players. Ramona Bachmann is a player who can change a game. [Kadidiatou] Diani and Nadia Nadim are great forward players. Then they have Formiga in the midfield. They have a lot of very good players, but Lyon also have some of the best players. It will be really interesting to play in and to watch.

Speaking of finals, you’ve registered five assists in the last two UEFA Women’s Champions League finals. What makes Shanice van de Sanden work wonders in huge games?

I think I’m a player who was made for finals. I’m focussed on every single game, but finals give you that something extra. You’re so close to winning a trophy, so that’s why I give everything in my body for my team. Why shouldn’t you give absolutely everything? I push myself. I don’t need anyone else to push me. I know how it feels to win trophies and I want more of them. Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve got five assists in two Champions League finals. I think it’s crazy. I’m really proud of that. Hopefully it’s going to happen again and hopefully I’m going to score a goal in one as well.

Does assisting a goal give you as much joy as scoring?

Yeah, for sure. When I’m through on goal, maybe I can score but if a team-mate is in a better position – even just one per cent better position – I will give the ball to her. I think that’s really important. It makes players closer to each other and the team stronger. I get a really great feeling when I give an assist, so for me it’s the same as scoring.

Lyon play Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals later this month. What do you make of Bayern?

They have a great team, they have some new players. I know a few of their players as well. They trained during the lockdown and they got back playing much sooner than us. They’ve just played the German league out, and that didn’t happen in France, so I think they will be quite fit. But we’ve been training really well for the last month and I think we’ll be ready for the game as well. I think it will be a great game.

Do you think that, given Ada Hegerberg’s injury and the format being single games in Spain, winning the Champions League this year would be Lyon’s biggest achievement?

Yeah, I think so. Usually, if you don’t play well in the first game, you have a chance to put it right, but now if we lose we’re out of the Champions League. It’s the same with the EUROs or the World Cup – anything can happen. It’s about the team that gets into the flow. We’re focussing on the first game – Bayern will be really tough – but if we win [the tournament] it will maybe be our biggest achievement.

What do you think of Hegerberg?

She’s a great player. It’s crazy to think she’s just turned 25 because she’s already achieved so much. She’s been so important for our team and she still is even when she is injured. It’s been a tough time for her, but she’s a strong person off the pitch and on the pitch. She’s so grown up.

Talking of youth, how did you get into football as a youngster and who were your idols growing up?

Actually, I was quite old – I didn’t play football until I was 12. One of the neighbours stopped by my mom’s house and said, ‘Shanice, why are you always at home, never outside making friends?’ I said I felt comfortable on my own at home. He said I should try football, asked a local football club if they had room for a girl on their team, and the day I started training that was it. Four years later I made my debut for the national team. It’s so crazy. When it’s over I will look back and think, ‘That was a crazy journey, people dream about doing this’. But my journey’s not over and now I am focussing on winning more trophies. Because football wasn’t really part of my life, I didn’t really have any idols growing up, but Cristiano Ronaldo is a player I have loads of respect for on and off the pitch. He’s one of my idols.

How was your FIFA Women’s World Cup experience last year?

The experience was great. It was a really big tournament, it brought a lot of attention on women’s football, and I think a lot has changed since the tournament in a positive way for women’s football. That’s something I’m really proud of. And I’m really proud of the silver medal. It was a tough World Cup, but we played well and got to the Final. I wanted to get more for the team. It didn’t come off for me, but everything happens for a reason and the silver medal is great.

What did you make of the Oranjeleeuwinnen fans at France 2019?

We were in the hotel, focusing on the games. But we’d see pictures, videos, everything on social media – everyone on the streets, all in orange, singing and dancing. It gives you a boost, something extra to play well for your supporters. That’s something I’m really proud of – our country is small but our supporters are everywhere.

Are you looking forward to playing in the Olympics?

I’m really excited to play in the Olympics. Making it to the Olympics is already a great achievement. We have to wait one more year, but I can’t wait. I’ve always wanted to play in the Olympics and now it’s going to happen. I always watched the Olympics on television. I used to watch all the sports because it’s a really great tournament.

Do you think the USA are on another level to the Netherlands?

I think the Netherlands can match them, but I think, for sure, the USA are something else. They’re far ahead of us in some ways, but I still think on the pitch, if we stay focused, we can give them a really good game. I think they win trophies because they have great players, a lot of experience, and a lot of support from their country. Hopefully this is going to happen with more countries, but you need time for this.

What do you think about the next FIFA Women’s World Cup going to Australia and New Zealand?

Ooooh, I can’t wait! I’ve always said to my mom and my friends, ‘I really want to visit Australia and New Zealand’. I’m really excited for this World Cup. It will be sick.

Finally, who do you think is the best player in the world right now?

That’s a tough one. [Megan] Rapinoe, of course she’s a great player, but [Dzsenifer] Marozsan, I see her every single day in training, and she is for sure one of the very best players in the world. Her technique, the things she can do… she is on another level.