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The Dutch look to go far with young talent - and without Miedema


The Netherlands hope to go far with a blend of experience and youth. Photo: @oranjevrouwen on Twitter.

The Netherlands can be considered a new comer to the FIFA World Cup game. Up until 2015, the Dutch failed to qualify for the biggest international tournament in the world, but have taken huge strides in the women´s game since then and is now looked upon as one of the strongest national teams.


In their first World Cup participation in 2015, the Netherlands just about managed to progress from the group stage after finishing third in their group. Luckily for them, they were among the four best third-placed teams that advanced alongside the group winners and the runners-up. But the newcomers didn´t get any further than the Round of 16, losing 1-2 to Japan.


Following the 2015 World Cup, something changed for the Dutch national team. Sarina Wiegman lead them to glory in the 2017 Euros on home soil, before leading them to the World Cup final two years later, ultimately losing to the USA.


Since 2017 the Netherlands have been a strong force in the women´s game, but there have been some changes to the Dutch national team in the last couple of years. Most notably, success coach Sarina Wiegman is gone and has taken over England.


But there have also been some changes on the player side from the team that won the Euros in 2017 and reached the mentioned World Cup final in 2019.


Most of the core players from four years ago remain, but some are also gone. Long-time first-choice goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal is one of them and has been replaced by young and up-and-coming shot-stopper Daphne van Domselaar.


The change between the sticks is just one of many, as the Netherlands are in the middle of a generation change. A squad consisting of some experience as well as a lot of youthful courage and talent is what the Dutch are hoping will take them one step further than four years ago.



Coach: Andries Jonker


On the touchline leading the Netherlands in this World Cup, is the experienced 60-year-old coach Andries Jonker. He was announced as the new head coach of the Dutch women´s team on August 22nd, 2022, after former coach Mark Parsons was sacked following the team´s poor showing at the Euros.


Jonker started his managerial career back in 1988 by managing DRC Amsterdam II for two years. After that, he was at the helm of the Netherlands youth teams for seven years, before he took over the head coach role at FC Volendam, a role he attained for one year.


Andries Jonker will lead the Netherlands at the World Cup. Photo: @oranjevrouwen on Twitter.

In 2001 he was appointed interim head coach for the Dutch women´s national team, before moving on to a role as assistant at Barcelona.


During his managerial career, Jonker has also had jobs at MVV Maastricht and Willem II in the Netherlands, and also roles at Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg in Germany.


Ahead of the 2014/15 season Jonker was announced as the new academy manager at English club Arsenal and stayed until 2017 when he returned to Wolfsburg as the club´s head coach.


The stint at Wolfsburg was short for Jonker, who parted ways with the club only seven months after his appointment.


In 2019 he signed a two-year deal with Eerste Divise club Telstar, and stayed as their head coach until June 2022, before taking up the position as head coach for Oranje Leeuwinnen two months later, where he has managed seven games, winning five and losing two so far.



Squad list:


The Dutch squad for the 2023 World Cup consists of a good blend of experienced players that have been a part of the squad for a long time, winning the Euros in 2017 and reaching the World Cup final in 2019, and also a lot of young, talented players that are on their way up.


There are also some notable absences, particularly all-time topscorer Vivianne Miedema, who is out of this year´s World Cup following an ACL injury she suffered during the season. Her absence is a big blow for Andries Jonker and his squad, and they have to rely on goals from elsewhere for this tournament.


Also worth mentioning is that neither Romée Leucther nor Fenna Kalma made the cut to be part of 23 player squad.


Leucther scored 17 goals in 18 games for Ajax in the Eredivisie this season and also made an impression at last summer´s Euros as an impact sub. As for Kalma, she became the Eredivisie top scorer in the 2022/23 season, scoring 30 goals in 20 games for Twente, earning her a transfer to Champions League finalists Wolfsburg.


With Miedema being out, excluding both Leucther and Kalma from the squad can be seen as surprising given their goal-scoring records.


These are the 23 players that will represent the Netherlands at the 2023 World Cup:


Goalkeepers: Daphne van Domselaar (Aston Villa), Lize Kop (Ajax), Jacintha Weimar (Feyenoord).


Defenders: Stefanie van der Gragt (Inter), Dominique Janssen (Wolfsburg), Aniek Nouwen (Chelsea), Merel van Dongen (Atletico Madrid), Lynn Wilms (Wolfsburg), Kerstin Casparij (Manchester City), Caitlin Dijkstra (Twente).


Midfielders: Jackie Groenen (PSG), Sherida Spitse (Ajax), Daniëlle van de Donk (Lyon), Jill Roord (Manchester City), Damaris Egurrola (Lyon), Victoria Pelova (Arsenal), Jill Baijings (Bayern München), Wieke Kaptein (Twente).


Forwards: Lieke Martens (PSG), Lineth Beerensteyn (Juventus), Renate Jansen (Twente), Esmee Brugts (PSV), Katja Snoeijs (Everton).


Jackie Groenen is vital for the Netherlands. Photo: @oranjevrouwen on Twitter.

Best player: Jackie Groenen


One of the players that has been part of the Dutch success story over the past six years, is Jackie Groenen.


She made her debut on the national team in 2016 at the age of 22 and has since then been a vital part of the team.

During the 2017 Euros, in which the Netherlands went all the way, Groenen was one of, if not the best player in the whole tournament. Two years later at the World Cup, she was once again outstanding and was the player that sent the Netherlands to the final with a stunning strike from distance late in extra-time against Sweden in the semifinal.


Going into a new major tournament, Groenen will yet again play a crucial role in the Dutch midfield. The 28-year-old is a complete box-to-box midfielder that can do it all and is pivotal in holding the midfield together.


In attack, Groenen is at the heart of play contributing with smart and good passes, vision, playmaking ability, and very smart runs into the box or final third. Her movement also creates imbalances in the opponent´s defensive structure, which again creates space for her teammates to utilise.


Whilst not being a prolific goalscoring midfielder, Groenen can pop up with a goal as she does have a decent shot, proven by the already-mentioned winner against Sweden four years ago.


The PSG midfielder is also a fantastic contributor defensively for her team. Groenen has an elite work-rate and plays with a constant intensity in her game. That makes her a fantastic press player, and she uses that ability to disturb the opponents in their build-up play by pressuring them, forcing mistakes, or winning the ball.


On the ball, Groenen is important to her team´s build-up play. She is very press-resistant and plays confidently out of pressure, either by making simple passes to keep the ball moving or using her smartness to turn onrushing opponents.


All these qualities make her vitally important to the Netherlands, and an in-form Jackie Groenen can make the difference in any game, either defensively or offensively.



Player to watch: Esmee Brugts


As mentioned, the Dutch squad for the upcoming World Cup includes a lot of rising stars, but the one that shines brighter than anyone is PSV forward Esmee Brugts.


At only 19 years old, Brugts has already made 15 appearances for the Dutch national team, scoring four goals.


For her club she has become the biggest star and has attracted interest from bigger clubs abroad, making her the subject of a potentially big transfer this summer.


What makes Brugts such a special talent is her ability on the ball. The winger is a very silky dribbler with outstanding ball control and technical ability and combines that with incredible speed. Brugts´abilities make her a constant attacking threat and she will always cause her opponents a lot of trouble, especially in 1v1 situations.


With the Netherlands needing goal threats from different areas with Miedema out of the World Cup, Brugts could get the chance to shine in Australia and New Zealand this summer. It´s possible that she could grab a starting spot in Jonker´s XI, but if not, she will be a brilliant option off the bench to bring on to cause chaos in the opponent´s backline, so definitely watch out for Esmee Brugts.


Esmee Brugts is one of many rising stars in the Dutch squad. Photo: @oranjevrouwen on Twitter.

Group stage head to head:


Looking at their group, the Netherlands have been drawn into a tasty one with reigning champions USA, Portugal, and Vietnam.


They have no experience playing Vietnam, but have faced off against both USA and Portugal previously.


Their record against the USA is very bad, as the Netherlands have never managed to beat the Americans in any of their six previous meetings. The reigning World Cup champions have come out on top in five of these six games, with one draw. The last time these two teams faced each other, was at the Olympics in Tokyo, which ended in a 2-2 draw, with the USA ultimately winning on penalties. On the five other occasions, the Americans have been victorious, including in the 2019 World Cup final.


Whilst the Dutch have a terrible record against the USA, they have a very pleasant history against Portugal, winning all three games they have played. Last time out was in the Euros last year, which ended with a 3-2 win for the Netherlands. Before that, one would have to go back to 2014 to find a game between the Netherlands and Portugal. That was a World Cup qualification game which also ended 3-2 to the Dutch. The first game between the two was back in 2013, with the final score being 7-0 to the Netherlands.


Expectations:


The group isn´t the easiest for the Netherlands, but it´s still expected that they progress relatively comfortably, either as group winners or runners-up.


Being in the same group as the reigning World Cup champions, it will be difficult to win the group, but the USA seems to be on the decline taking their recent results and performances into consideration. Whether or not the Netherlands can take the spot as group winners away from the USA remains to be seen, but with the Americans looking more vulnerable than ever nothing is out of the question and the Dutch can well top group E.


Either way, the battle between the 2019 World Cup finalists will be the main story in this group, and both teams are more than likely to make it through over Portugal and Vietnam.


After that the knockout stage awaits, and depending on the draw, the Netherlands can go on a good run at this year´s World Cup. They are certainly capable of going far. How far is difficult to say, but don´t rule out a run to the semifinal.


Considering the absence of their biggest star Vivianne Miedema and the team´s defensive weaknesses, a run to the quarterfinal seems more realistic. However, the Dutch are capable of going further.


Prediction: Quarterfinal

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