After a lively opening ceremony, the captains of both the Netherlands and Norway led the way forward against a backdrop of orange – the national colour of the Netherlands. Even more so, the players of the Dutch national team were wearing a special crest. Instead of a lion, the emblem now features a lioness to echo the team’s nickname ‘Orange Lionesses’.
Much to the likening of the home crowd, the Netherlands could have been in front within the opening minute. Shanice van de Sanden floated a cross in from the right, but left-forward Lieke Martens failed to get a shot on target.
It would have been a fairy-tale start for Sarina Wiegman’s side that hopes to put Dutch women’s football on the map for good. This quest began back in 2009 when former head coach Vera Pauw managed to progress to the semi-finals with her squad. After being beaten by England, they took home bronze. For all that she has done, Pauw was named ‘Knight of the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB)’ during the interval.
Before the ceremony took place, however, Norway managed to settle into their rhythm in the first half after the early scare. Yet, apart from Ingrid Schjelderup shooting wide from close range, Martin Sjögren’s side failed to threaten the hosts during the opening phase of the match.
Meanwhile, it was Martens again who came close to breaking the deadlock. After a quick combination with Vivianne Miedema, however she saw her shot saved by goalkeeper Hjelmseth. At the other end, a reflex save from Sari van Veenendaal foiled Norwegian forward Caroline Graham Hansen from close range.
As a sign of respect the Dutch fans held a minute’s applause in the 32th minute to mark the passing of the 32-year-old Sylvia Nooij, who earned six caps for the Dutch national team. This gesture was followed by a standing ovation for Ajax player Abdelhak Nouri, who suffered severe brain damage during a friendly against Werder Bremen last week.
While both teams squandered opportunities in the first half at Stadion Galgenwaard, the Netherlands started the first half just like they began the second. In the 65th minute, Shanice van de Sanden finally managed break the deadlock with a powerful header. Martens, who recently made the move to FC Barcelona, was again the architect, crossing from the left flank. With her pace, Van de Sanden got there just in time to head home.
From that moment on, the Netherlands controlled the game to seal a well-deserved win over Norway, and kick-start Oranje fever throughout the country. In their quest to make a name for Dutch women’s football, the hosts started off with a bang. Norway on the other hand, will have to come up with a Plan B for the remaining group A matches.
** Denmark beat tournament newcomers Belgium 1-0 in Doetinchem in the other Group A game.
—-AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and which is currently running a Young Reporters project in the Netherlands with the cooperation and support of European federation UEFA. More information at www.AIPSmedia.com