- Dutch wingers Weerden and Pattiwael are also good friends
- Inspired by the senior national team
- England await in the last eight
Ashleigh Weerden and Naomi Pattiwael are a dream pairing on the wings for the Netherlands U-20 women’s side. Their playing style is reminiscent of marauding wide players Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, now known as ‘Robbery’ following more than a decade of playing together at Bayern Munich. "I don’t have a nickname, but I like your idea," Pattiwael laughed as she sat down with FIFA.com. "I don’t know if Ashleigh has a nickname." (She doesn’t.)
The pair’s harmony on the pitch can be attributed to their relationship off it. "We’re pretty good friends and get along very well," Weerden explained. "If one of us has any tips for the other on the pitch then we help each other. We motivate each other and I can sometimes learn things from her. She’s a very good player."
The pair are taking their first steps onto the world stage and have reached the quarter-finals with their team at the first attempt. The Dutch finished second in their group behind hosts France with two wins and one defeat – and the two friends are enjoying the attention that comes with this success.
"Playing in front of a lot of people at the stadium and singing your national anthem before the game is something I will never forget," Pattiwael said, before Weerden added: "In the match against France the crowd was just great and the atmosphere was fantastic."
Hungry for more
The duo are now keen to take the next step and make history, just as the senior team did by winning their first UEFA Women’s EURO in 2017. "We all want to have a victory like that," Weerden, the Netherlands’ No11, said. "They really motivated us to achieve the same thing. The most important thing is to perform at the highest level in every match. If we want to go even further, we have to give our best performance in every game. We have played against three totally different teams [in the group stages] and we learned a lot from all of the matches. I think that made us even better."
To achieve their dream, the Netherlands must first overcome England in the quarter-finals. The Young Lionesses also have their sights set on success after exiting the competition in the last eight in 2002 and 2008. "The match against England will not be easy – on the contrary, it will be a tough one,” said Pattiwael. "They have a good team and strong individual players, but so do we. We’ll see who is the best," she added confidently.
Weerden is also feeling positive ahead of the quarter-final. "We’ve already played against them a couple of times and they were always exciting matches. I think the pair of us can make the difference. I think the one who scores first can keep it that way and win the game."
If the wingers can make their mark on this match, it might be time to roll out their nickname once and for all. After all, ‘Pattiweer’ has a certain ring to it…