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Euro 2017

Netherlands face tough quarterfinal test in Sundhage’s Sweden

The Netherland's Vivianne Miedema knows that Sweden are the favorites going into the teams' quarterfinal match-up. (Getty Images)

The Netherland’s Vivianne Miedema knows that Sweden are the favorites going into the teams’ quarterfinal match-up. (Getty Images)

TILBURG, Netherlands – The Netherlands will get the quarterfinal matches of EURO 2017 underway when they take on Sweden on Saturday in Doetinchem. The hosts topped Group A with a perfect 3-0-0 record, while Sweden finished second in Group B with a disappointing 1-1-1 record. Despite having support from across the Netherlands, striker Vivianne Miedema doesn’t see her team as the favorites against Sweden.

“I’m not going to say we’re favorites for the next game ’cause we’re not, but we have the public behind us, we have the whole country behind us. They give us a lot of extra energy,” Miedema said.

Pia Sundhage’s Sweden side have been there and done that. They have proven that they are a top contender in women’s football. Whether or not they have enough left to win a quarterfinals match and move on to the semifinals, that remains to be seen.

“Yeah, Sweden is a really good team,” said Shanice van de Sanden. “They are old girls, but they are really professional. They know what to do. They played the final in the Olympics against Germany. They didn’t win the game, but they are really good. We will see.”

It will be intriguing to see if the Netherlands can teach the “Old Girls” of Sweden a few new tricks and tactics. The Netherlands are an up-and-coming force, while Sweden is in a transition with talented Stina Blackstenius and Fridolina Rolfö as the next wave.

“Sweden is really good in the tournament as well,” said Miedema. “It’s not going to be an easy game. I’m happy we have an extra day off to recover and prepare for the next game.”

Sherida Spitse, Shanice van de Sanden and Lieke Martens have all scored for the Netherlands. They’ve shown that they have enough depth to get offensive from a number of players. The likes of Danielle van de Donk and Jackie Groenen have created scoring opportunities, and it feels as if it’s only a matter of time before they find the net.

Vivianne Miedema, 21, has scored 41 goals for her country, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. Media covering the Netherlands have criticized her for not showing up in big tournaments. Miedema isn’t fazed by outside noise concerning her scoring form.

“Nah,” said Miedema, when asked about pressure to score goals. “I just have three our four players around me all the time. They don’t really care if they kick the ball [or] they kick me. I just have a different job right now. Martens and van den Sanden, they get more space on the outside because I’m getting everyone in the middle. It’s good for them.”

The Netherlands have bought into a team-first mentality. Young players like Miedema aren’t concerned with personal statistics or who is, or isn’t, scoring. EURO 2017 has been a terrific tournament for the growth and development of women’s football in Holland. This is the first time players are noticing that they have a true sense of home crowd support and fans cheering for them.

“I think it’s really important,” said van de Sanden. “All the fans supported behind us. People say the supporters are normally the 12th man. I’ve known what they talk about, but I’ve never felt it before. I felt it, and it’s amazing to have all the supporters behind you.”

You can never really count out Sweden. They have a mix of young and old talent. When they’ve shown to get their tactics spot on, they can compete with Germany, France, and England. When they don’t show up, you see results like a 3-2 loss to Italy.

The Netherlands are looking to reach that next level, and if they are going to do that, it means beating Sweden on Saturday in Doetinchem. Momentum is with the Netherlands, and they have a fantastic opportunity to continue on to the semifinals.


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