KEIR RADNEDGE / AIPS in ENSCHEDE*: Twentynine years after their men’s team hoisted the UEFA European Championship in 1988, Dutch fans erupted in the FC Twente Stadion as the women clinched their own prize.
The Dutch saw off Denmark 4-2 in an intriguing final to claim their first title on home soil in front of a home record crowd of 28,182.
Coach Sarina Wiegman’s team recovered to win after conceding a sixth-minute penalty. Vivianne Miedema scored twice supported by strikes from captain Sherida Spitse and Lieke Martens who also carried off the player of the tournament award.
Wiegman had expressed confidence in her starting 11 for the third match in a row while Denmark made two changes from the team who beat Austria in a semi-final shootout: Cecilie Sandvej replaced Line Røddik at left-back with Sofie Pedersen in for injured Line Jensen in midfield.
The atmosphere was heightened by a closing ceremony which recalled the journey of the original 16 nations through seven cities.
The first five minutes saw no shots at all before the match burst into life with a penalty for Denmark after Kika van Es tripped Sanne Troesgaard. Nadia Nadim stepped up to shoot the hosts behind for the first time in the competition.
They needed only four minutes to respond. Pacey Shanice van de Sanden drove past Cecilie Sandvej on the right before crossing for unmarked Miedema to apply the finishing touch to her third goal in three knockout matches.
The Netherlands took charge of possession from then on and were the more dangerous in attack.
First Martens forced Denmark’s goalkeeper, Stina Lykke Petersen, into action in the 16th minute after another surge down the right by Van de Sanden. Then their reward arrived in the 28th minute when Martens collected a pass from Desiree van Lunteren on the edge of the box before shooting into the bottom corner of Petersen’s goal.
The outnumbered Danish fans in the stands were able to turn up their own volume in the 33rd minute after captain Pernille Harder’s sprint down the right from her own half paid off beautifully.
The Wolfsburg forward beat the offside trap and cut inside before shooting into the bottom corner to restore parity. Netherlands’ goalkeeper, Sari van Veenendaal barely reacted.
Both teams went in at the break with the final evenly poised and Denmark were the quicker off the blocks on the resumption.
Six minutes in, however, the stadium erupted to Netherlands’ third goal from a freekick by captain Sherida Spitse with a low shot wide of the wall and into Petersen’s goal.
The hosts, taking advantage of Van de Sanden’s speed, stepped up the pressure while Denmark made minimal trips beyond their half. The Danes, when they did break out, twice went close. Harder escaped her marker before squaring for Katrine Veje to hit a goal stanchion and then Sanne Troelsgaard was off target after a corner.
In the end it was the Oranje who added to their tally with Miedema working space for the shot which secured their fourth goal and their first cup from the hands of UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
** 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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