- The Netherlands face a decisive Women’s World Cup qualifier against Norway
- The winner will top Group 3 and guarantee their spot at France 2019
- Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman discusses the match and her World Cup ambitions
With the Netherlands having scored 21 goals and conceded none in FIFA Women’s World Cup™ qualifying, you might expect that their place in France is already assured. Not so.
On Tuesday, the Dutch travel to face Norway knowing that, despite their fine record thus far, defeat to the former world champions would deny them top spot in Group 3. With only the section winners guaranteed a World Cup spot, the stakes could not be higher for this tantalising clash between two of Europe’s elite sides.
It took a 93rd-minute Vivianne Miedema winner to separate the two in their qualifying curtain-raiser last October, and Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman anticipates plenty more excitement in Oslo.
“It’s a massive game and it should be a great one to watch,” Wiegman told FIFA.com. “It’s between two really strong sides and I would have expected it to be a big one anyway, but the results so far make it even bigger.
“We’re in first place in the group right now and want to keep it that way, of course. But Norway have won every match since we beat them right at the start of the campaign. That shows what a powerful team they are and I expect a very close, exciting and high quality match. I’m looking forward to it.”
Wiegman has every reason to approach this winner-takes-all encounter with genuine relish. After all, while her side’s place at France 2019 may not be guaranteed, they could have barely done any more thus far, with six wins and just a solitary draw against Republic of Ireland to show for their efforts. That record is a tribute, says their coach, to the players’ ability to re-focus after their UEFA Women’s EURO triumph and find the motivation and tactical solutions to overcome new problems.
“I think the team have done a really good job,” said Wiegman. “If you think back, we were not one of the favourites for the EURO – not at all. But after winning that, expectations around us have completely changed.
“We’re also finding that every team we play now treats it like a final – because they want to beat the European champions. Teams are also playing a lot more defensively against us these days, so that’s required us to come up with some solutions and work hard on the training ground to deal with that. But I’m really happy with how the players have adapted.”
While memories of that magnificent EURO campaign remain fresh for the team’s fans, Wiegman has long since moved on to set her sights on France 2019. Having been with the Netherlands at their debut Women’s World Cup in 2015, she is also well aware that next year’s global finals – should the Dutch get there – will require new heights to be scaled.
She said: “The EURO was huge for us, particularly as it was held in our country, but we know the World Cup is at another, even higher level. I was there at the last World Cup as assistant coach and it was a fantastic experience. I’m desperate to be there again, and so are the players. But first we need to qualify, and to do that we need to play a really great match against Norway.”