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2019 World Cup Preview: Netherlands

The Dutch are ready for the world.

Netherlands Women v Australia Women - International Friendly Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

When the Netherlands won the 2017 Euro, it seemed like the start of something big. They’d only ever qualified for three Euros, and they hoisted the 2017 trophy on home soil after winning all three group stage games, albeit with a +3 goal differential. After that they ran through Sweden (2-0) and England (3-0) on the way to the final, where they beat group stage opponents Denmark 4-2. Since the start of 2018, they’ve lost just four times, and they’ve rounded into form just in time for the tournament.

The Team

This crop of Dutch stars is staring at what may be its best chance to win the ultimate prize. Just two players on the roster are older than 30, but with the exception of midfielder Jackie Groenen (24), all of the established stars are 26 or older. There is some youth in this team, with seven players 23 or younger, but with one standout exception, those players have yet to come to the forefront. The time is now for the Netherlands.

How They’ve Fared

This is the second World Cup for the Leeuwinnen, who went out in the round of 16 in 2015.

How They Qualified

The journey to qualification was a long one. Undefeated after seven games with a 6-0-1 record, the Dutch were atop Group 3, one point ahead of Norway, who had six wins and a loss to that point. On the final match day, the Netherlands lost 2-1 to Norway in Oslo, courtesy of Norway goals in the 5th and 6th minutes, sending Norway to France and consigning the Netherlands to a four-team playoff with Switzerland, Belgium, and Denmark. They drew Denmark in the semis, beating them by a 4-1 aggregate score over two legs, and then they did the same to Switzerland in the finals, finally advancing to the World Cup.

Group

E, with Canada, Cameroon, and New Zealand.

Player You Know

Lieke Martens is a star. After scoring 20 goals in 29 games for FC Rosengard in Sweden, Martens moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2017. Since then she’s helped Barcelona to one Champions League final, two consecutive 2nd place league finishes, and won one Copa de la Reina. She won the Golden Ball at the 2017 Euro, given to the best player in the tournament, and took home the 2017 Player of the Year awards given by both FIFA and UEFA. She’s scored 20 goals in 49 Barcelona appearances, and she’s credited with 42 goals in 102 appearances for her country. She’s quick, and she’s deadly in front of goal. She’s not the only one that can take the Netherlands far in this tournament, but she’s more than capable of doing it.

Player You’ll Know Soon

It’s hard to miss Vivianne Miedema. Standing 5’9, she’s taller than a lot of the players she faces, and the 22-year-old is better than a lot of her opponents as well. Miedema debuted on the senior level as a 15-year-old playing for Heerenveen in the Netherlands, where she scored 78 goals in 69 appearances over four years, including a league leading 39-goal campaign in 2013-14. Miedema moved from there to Bayern Munich, scoring 35 goals in 61 matches for the Frauen Bundesliga giants. Now she plays for Arsenal, where she just broke the record for goals scored in a single WSL season, with 22. She scores wherever she goes, including 58 goals in 75 caps, blending deft touch, aerial prowess, and this:

Look out.

World Cup Outlook

There was reason for concern in the Dutch camp after they started the calendar year with two Algarve Cup losses, and a win in penalties against China to avoid finishing last in the tournament. Since then, however, they’ve beaten Mexico 2-0, Chile 7-0, and Australia 3-0. They’re good enough to win their group, and they should have six points from their first two games, heading into the game against Canada, which should decide the group. This team is good enough to win the whole tournament, and while I’m not ready to predict that they will, anything short of a berth in the quarterfinals would be a disappointment.