The year 2017 will be remembered fondly for a number of women’s soccer highlights, but few will top the achievements of the Netherlands side that won the hearts of a nation as the Oranje Leeuwinnen (Orange Lionesses) won their first ever major title when they claimed the Women’s EUROs on home turf.
Sarina Wiegman’s side, who had never even reached a major final before (they reached the semi-finals in 2009), won every game at EURO 2017 in front of packed out crowds and seas of orange wherever they went, which culminated in a 4-2 final victory over Denmark in Enschede.
The run to the final was by no means a walk in the park, with the Dutch having to overcome the likes of Norway, Denmark and Belgium in their group, before knockout wins over Sweden and England saw what was arguably the match of 2017 against the Danes.
The win over Denmark in the final was memorable for a number of reasons, but will be remembered largely for the crowds in Enschede before and after the game. Wherever you looked, you would see an orange flag or jersey or wig–anything orange that fans could find, they brought it along to the match.
This was a theme throughout the competition for the Dutch, with interest and media coverage growing considerably as the Netherlands progressed into the latter stages. Back page coverage turned to front page coverage, and all of a sudden, the Orange Lionesses were household names and had been thrust into the limelight.
After lifting the trophy in Enschede, the team celebrated their victory in Utrecht, and the scene that met them was like nothing the players had seen before. As the squad travelled through the city on canal boats, the streets were lined with fans cheering their new heroes before the squad took to a stage to be greeted by thousands more supporters, eager to share the victorious moment.
Players such as forward Lieke Martens, who had signed for FC Barcelona the week before the tournament started, dazzled spectators and bamboozled defenders and was unsurprisingly named Player of the Tournament. She went onto win UEFA Best Women’s Player of the Year and then won the ultimate individual accolade – the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Not to be left out, coach Sarina Wiegman was named FIFA Coach of the Year.
But the biggest honor the team received following their triumph was when they were recognized by Willem-
Overall, 2017 was the year women’s football was put on the map in the Netherlands. The sellout crowds have continued after the EUROs as the Dutch now attempt to qualify for the World Cup in 2019 and stamp their mark on the world stage.