UTRECHT, Netherlands – England is busy getting set to play the Netherlands on Thursday, a spot in the European Championship Final on the line. The Lionesses are finding new ways to win and showing improvement in each and every match.
While supporters and media might have labelled England as the team to continue forward, players like vice-captain Jordan Nobbs are choosing to take a different approach.
“I’m not sure,” Nobbs laughed when asked about England being the favorite. “We truly believe it, and we believe that we’re ready to win and put in a good performance.”
However, England will have to make a pair of lineup changes for the semifinals. Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley will miss the rest of Euro 2017 after sustaining a fibula fracture, and Siobhan Chamberlain will start in goal. Jill Scott will be absent from the midfield, as she serves a one-match suspension due to yellow card accumulation.
Izzy Christiansen is expected to draw into England’s 4-2-3-1 formation on the wing, with Nobbs moving back in to a holding midfield position next to Jade Moore. The biggest question mark, if you can call it a question mark, is Chamberlain in net. She conceded England’s only goal of the tournament in a 2-1 win over Portugal. The Netherlands will provide a much stiffer test, and the Liverpool shot-stopper will have to be on her mark.
“We’ve got a different challenge against Holland,” admitted Chamberlain. “They’ll have all their supporters behind them. That will give them an extra buzz, and the atmosphere will be fantastic. But in that World Cup quarterfinal, we were playing in front of 50,000 Canadian fans and we coped with that, so we’ll go out there on Thursday feeling confident that we can get the win.”
There will be a lot of familiar faces on the pitch. Several Netherlands players play in the WSL. Shanice van de Sanden will look to get the better of her Liverpool teammate, Chamberlain. Both players have already been in contactt with plenty of banter abound.
“She’s a fantastic player,” Chamberlain said of Van de Sanden. ‘She texted me after the [France] game to say ‘Well done and look forward to seeing you on Thursday.’ We’ve been wishing each other good luck and congratulating each other when we’ve won games, but now we’ve both, said, ‘The good luck wishes stop here!'”
The 24-year-old Nobbs is hoping that England have not peaked too soon. The momentum is clearly in the Lionesses corner, but it’s important that Mark Sampson’s squad keeps focus and doesn’t get too ahead of themselves. There’s still two massive matches to play.
“I think we’ve still got more to come,” Nobbs said. “Hopefully we haven’t peaked too soon. Tournament football is difficult to explain. When you’re clever and stick to the game plan, that’s all that matters. As long as you’re together as a team.”
Nobbs will be in for a battle with Arsenal teammates Vivianne Miedema, Daniëlle van de Donk, Dominique Janssen and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal. Friendships will be put on hold for at least 90 minutes. Familiarity will definitely help each team, but it all comes down to who can execute, put in the necessary work, and prevail.
“Holland are a great team. They’ve got great players,” Chamberlain said. “We know a lot of them from the WSL, so we’ve played against them a lot of times. It’s going to be a very difficult game, but we’ll have a game plan to win.”
— Siobhan ⚽️?? (@Sio_Chamberlain) July 31, 2017
England have shown a confidence that we haven’t seen before from England. They keep trending upwards and knocking off the opposition. The crowd will be behind the Netherlands, but that doesn’t bother the likes of Chamberlain and her teammates.
They’re on a mission, and that includes breaking the hearts of Holland supporters and advancing to the final against Austria or Denmark.
“We came to this tournament to win it,” said a confident Chamberlain. “You’ve got to beat the best teams to do that, and we’ve already beaten Spain, who a lot of people had down as dark horses in the group. Now we’ve beaten France, who are a fantastic side.”
It’s not how you start a football tournament, but how you finish. The old cliché holds true to form, and England are showing that they are more than ready to make history. The Netherlands are on the rise, but this is clearly the Lionesses time to shine bright.