JEROEN ADRIAANSE / AIPS* in ENSCHEDE: Dutch football legends Marco van Basten and Louis van Gaal have written plenty of history between them.
On Sunday evening they witnessed, alongside a record crowd of 28,182, another chapter being added to an already impressive history book full of mesmerising moments and triumphs.
The occasion was the Netherlands women’s team winnng their first major tournament by 4-2 victory over Denmark in Enschede, ending Germany’s 22-year European reign. It was a statement of intent with a golden reward.
As Lieke Martens and Jackie Groenen collected their well-deserved medals during the trophy ceremony, the watching eyes of Pernille Harder moistened. The Danish captain had been brilliant but could not inspire her side to a title.
The Dutch players had swarmed around Harder and her teammates throughout the 90 minutes to regain possession. Groenen and Sherida Spitse in particular put in some major interventions which illustrated the desire and willingness of the Netherlands to put women’s football on the map for good.
Head coach Sarina Wiegman, all smiles at the post-match press conference, said: “It was a great final, with two teams that really wanted to play football, and really wanted to win. Both teams played attacking football and six goals in an exciting match is a great advert for the women’s game.”
The final illustrated how the gap between national teams is narrowing. Players have more opportunities to train at a higher level and use better facilities.
Dutch winger Martens showed she has developed technically, tactically and physically over the past two seasons in Sweden, which earned her a move to FC Barcelona this summer.
The 24-year-old was directly involved in five goals in six games during the Euro campaign and, with three goals and two assists, was named ‘Player of the Tournament’.
Midfielder Daniëlle van de Donk struggled to find words to describe her feelings, saying: “I am so proud of the whole squad. It is amazing to win on home soil. Something I never expected, but now I am just happy. This is the biggest thing that can happen for women’s football in the Netherlands.”
** 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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