KARL SUNDSTROM / AIPS in DOETINCHEM*: Netherlands continued their joyful journey at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017, beating Sweden 2-0 in the quarterfinal. The end of the journey for Pia Sundhage as head coach of Sweden. The next Dutch chapter is the journey towards the final in Enschede.
Doetinchem in the east of the Netherlands was all decked out, with a few blue and yellow exceptions, in orange. Lieke Martens after 33 minutes and Vivianne Miedema after 64 struck the goals to reward their support and deliver them into Thursday’s semi-final in Enschede against England or France.
The Dutch ran a lap of honour before celebrating with their delirious families. The Swedish plumbed the opposite extreme. This was their second successive defeat in Doetinchem. Four days earlier they suffered a 3-2 upset against Italy but carried on in the tournament. This time it was full stop.
Both teams offered plenty of energy but no clear chances at the beginning of the game. Netherland’s Sherida Spitse fired a free kick over the bar and the Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl mistimed a corner, which nearly gave Miedema an open goal. From Sweden it was all about young striker Stina Blackstenius. One shot deflected against the hand of Dutch defender Anouk Dekker in the penalty box but German referee Bibiana Steinhaus waved play on.
In the 33rd minute Stadion De Vijverberg and the Netherlands exploded in euphoria. Swedish defender Jessica Samuelsson fouled Miedema just outside the penalty box. Martens, who spent three seasons in the Swedish league, smashed a free kick low beyond goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl’s left hand into the corner of the net. A joyful moment for the sold-out crowd at Stadion De Vijverberg.
At halftime the Netherlands made a substitution. Stephanie van der Gragt, hurt in the first half, was replaced by Mandy van den Berg. A few bright Swedish minutes followed but then it was more and more about the Netherlands.
In the 64th minute Shanice Van de Sanden accelerated down the right and found Miedema with a cross of surgical precision. No mistake from the Dutch striker: 2-0. Cue further orange euphoria.
Sweden made some late tactical changes. Hanna Folkesson entered the pitch as they switched to 4-3-3 with an attacking trio of Lotta Schelin, Blackstenius and Kosovare Asllani.
Blackstenius had a goal ruled out for offside and a header from a corner was cleared off the line. But that was as close as Sweden came. This was the end for the blue and yellow. This was the end for Pia Sundhage as head coach.
The story of Sundhage is very much the story of women’s football in Sweden.
She has been there through the whole journey. From amateurism to professionalism. From scoring the winning penalty in the first European Championship in 1984 to coach of Sweden at the latest Euros.
Sundhage is the most important figure in the history of women’s football in Sweden. But all stories eventually end. With heavy steps she left the pitch in Doetinchem after the 2-0 defeat, thanking the Swedish supporters and hugging her players.
Meanwhile the Netherlands roll on to the semi-finals and beyond, they hope, to next Sunday’s final.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. and is currently undertaking a Young Reporters course in the Netherlands in co-operation with UEFA, More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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