- Defender Kika van Es named in the Netherlands' second Women’s World Cup squad
- EURO 2017 winner says early squad announcement removes any nerves
- Hopes interest in her team continues to grow after euphoria of 2017
As the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ draws ever nearer, players around the world wait with anticipation to discover whether they will be heading to France with their respective national team in June.
For players from the Netherlands, there is no requirement to have any nerves or chewed nails, with head coach Sarina Wiegman deciding to name her 23-player squad early ahead of her side’s second Women's World Cup.
Ajax defender Kika van Es, who tasted glory in her home country in 2017 when the Netherlands won the UEFA Women’s EURO, was among the names announced by Wiegman, and she said that knowing the squad early, allows her to fully focus without any distractions.
“For me it is really positive because it means I can focus on the World Cup,” she said.
“It’s really good we have it early so we know what we can expect, it’s good for the group because we can work together and get ready for France.”
The team’s appearance in France will come with added pressure as the women in orange go into the tournament as European champions following their phenomenal victory on home soil two years ago.
Since that victory, stadiums have continuously sold out and players have become overnight celebrities. But with that, comes expectation, and the Dutch public will perhaps anticipate much more than the team’s performance in 2015, when they were knocked out in the Round of 16.
“It has been so cool to play in front of big crowds and fun to hear girls screaming at us when we are playing football, so the feeling is so good,” says Van Es.
“The status of the team has changed; we are not the girls in the Netherlands who just play football anymore, the public now expects us to win the World Cup.
“We are still the same girls, but expectations are just different.”
Van Es was speaking at the latest leg of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy Tour in Amersfoort on King’s Day, a special day for those in the Netherlands to celebrate the birth of King Willem-Alexander (27 April).
A sea of orange lined the street on Saturday to try and get a glimpse of the King, which brings back memories for Van Es and her team-mates after they defeated Denmark 4-2 in Enschede two years ago.
The Netherlands were unfancied going into their home tournament, but it will be difficult for them to go under the radar this year in France, this despite Van Es maintaining her side are underdogs.
“We want to be underdogs and we are telling everybody that because this is only our second World Cup,” she said.
“The World Cup is so different to the EUROs, being world champions will be very difficult, so we see ourselves as underdogs, which is better for us.”
Underdogs or not, the Dutch have an incredibly talented squad playing all over Europe, with their stock even higher following the performances of the last two years.
The goal now will be to make the country proud by performing well against group opponents Canada, New Zealand and Cameroon this year, in the hope that they can progress into the latter stages, win even more new fans, and give young girls the opportunity to dream.
“Before the EUROs, nobody knew who we were, and then a month later it was crazy.
“Little kids can now dream of being a professional and it's now easier to play football with other girls. We also showed parents that football is also for girls, not only for boys.
“For us, we think it’s good that we are playing in the north of France, so a lot of Dutch fans can come and support us. I think it is going to be a great World Cup and a great year.”