Miedema: Dutch must qualify to maintain momentum

  • Vivianne Miedema has hit 14 goals in her last eight Arsenal games

  • Her football addiction began when she was just three

  • She discusses the Netherlands' France 2019 playoff against Switzerland

“I like football way too much,” Vivianne Miedema kicked off to FIFA.com on Saturday.

It was 13:15 in London – a time requested not to work around the 22-year-old’s lunch or a spot of shopping in Knightsbridge or Mayfair, but because it was half-time at Vitality Stadium. Not even a second of Bournemouth-Manchester United did the Arsenal striker entertain missing.

We soon discovered the 66-cap, 51-goal Netherlands international, who netted twice in the 4-2 victory over Denmark in last year’s UEFA Women’s EURO final, began her love affair with the beautiful game before adulthood. Long before.

When most little girls were playing with Barbie Dolls and Furby Babies around the turn of the century, Vivianne was relishing going to De Kuip and pestering her parents into lingering around post-match to attempt to get a snap with Pierre van Hooijdonk, Dirk Kuyt or particularly Robin van Persie.

“My parents were both big Feyenoord fans,” said Miedema. “I started going to the matches when I was about three years old. I got to meet loads of the players, which I loved.

“And I used to get back and kick around anything I could. I would hit everything in the house – my mum would go crazy!”

Little brother Lars, now an 18-year-old striker on the books at PEC Zwolle, came along three years and eight months after Vivianne. The siblings have been joined at the hip, by a football, ever since.

“Me and my brother, we were always playing football together, every day,” said the 22-year-old. “We had a football pitch right in front of our house. We used to play all day.

“And when we weren’t playing football, we were watching it – we’d watch everything, Shanghai against Beijing, anything – or playing FIFA on the Playstation. We both always wanted to be Feyenoord, so we’d always be fighting over that, and we’re both not good at losing. Our mum used to go crazy and say, ‘That’s enough Playstation’.”

Voetbal was a mania to Miedema, but she didn’t realise it was a conceivable career until she was into her teens.

“I didn’t even know there was a women’s national team when I was growing up,” she said. “Now, after the Netherlands played at the World Cup for the first time and won the EURO, we’re role models for all the little kids. They grow up dreaming of playing for big clubs and in big tournaments like the European Championship and the World Cup.”

Miedema went to her first FIFA Women’s World Cup™ as an 18-year-old in 2015. A trip to her second next year hinges on the Netherlands sinking Switzerland in their UEFA qualifying play-off – part one of which unfolds in Utrecht on Friday.

“Switzerland are a really good team,” said Miedema. “They played at the last World Cup, they qualified easily for the EURO in 2017. Scotland did really well to beat them to a place [at France 2019].

“With Lara Dickenmann injured and Ramona Bachmann missing for the first leg, Switzerland have lost a lot of quality. But Lia Walti, who I know from Arsenal, is a really good player and they have other good players.

“I think it’s important that we try and get a good lead in the first leg. We’re playing at home and we’ll have around 23,000 fans giving us extra energy. Even though away goals count extra, we have to try and go for goals ourselves.”

Goals are something Miedema’s adidas X18’s are mass-manufacturing. The pride of Hoogeveen has, preposterously, hit 14 in her last eight appearances for Arsenal.

“I struggled last season with injuries,” explained Miedema. “I was given a longer break in the summer, I relaxed, and I feel fit again. Arsenal create a lot of chances, so this helps me a lot. I’m very lucky to play alongside such great players.”

You’d probably need to threaten to cut Miedema’s subscription to football channels to bait any braggadocio from her. Appraising others’ ability? The affable youngster, who has admirably had a book published, would happily do that all day long.

Miedema has penned plaudits for countrywomen Danielle van de Donk and Lieke Martens. She believes Ewa Pajor, a 21-year-old Polish striker, is destined for greatness. She considers Mana Iwabuchi, her dear friend and the adidas Golden Ball recipient at the maiden FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, a joy to watch. She reckons multiple players can lay claim to being the planet’s best, but gives her vote to Pernille Harder, who headlines the Denmark side dumped from the UEFA playoffs by the Netherlands one month ago.

“It’s a real shame she won’t be at the World Cup,” the former Bayern Munich player rued. It would, naturally, be a greater shame to Miedema if the Netherlands miss the boat.

“I think it’s a really important next step,” she said. “We qualified for the last World Cup, we won the EURO. Football’s really growing in Holland. We need to keep the momentum going. I think we’ll qualify.”