Fri | Nov 27, 2020

The Dutch march on at Women’s W’Cup

Published:Sunday | June 30, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Netherlands’ Lineth Beerensteyn (left) and Italy’s Elena Linari challenge for the ball during the Women’s World Cup quarter-final match between Italy and the Netherlands, at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes, France, yesterday. The Netherlands won 2-0.

VALENCIENNES, France (AP):

The Oranje procession will roll into a Women’s World Cup semi-final for the first time.

The parade of fans, covered head to toe in orange, the brass band – and, of course, the free kick specialists on the field.

In the sweltering afternoon heat of northeast France, the Netherlands relied on a pair of headers off free kicks by Sherida Spitse to beat Italy 2-0 in a quarter-final game yesterday.

Vivianne Miedema scored off Spitse’s delivery from the left side in the 70th minute to claim her 61st goal in 80 appearances for the Netherlands.

“In the end, people expect me to score goals,” Miedema said. “That header, I had a good feeling.”

So did Stefanie van der Gragt 10 minutes later, powering in a towering header when Spitse swung in a free kick from the right.

“I had the strength to get the ball in the right place,” Spitse said. “Our football, we could also play a little bit more and could score goals, but it’s nice to score from set pieces as well.”

Six of the last eight goals have come from set pieces at this World Cup, only the second time the Dutch women have appeared in the tournament. Four years ago, they only made it to the round of 16 but laid the foundations to win the European Championship in 2017.

“I didn’t expect to be in the semi-finals of this World Cup,” Miedema said. “We’ve been complaining that we’re not playing the best football but in the end, we’re in the semis. We’ve done amazing, and we can be really proud.”

The Netherlands will play Germany or Sweden in the semi-finals on Wednesday in Lyon, a day after England play the United States at the same stadium.

Expect an influx of thousands of Dutch fans to central France, just as they have painted towns orange across a tournament that has struggled to attract crowds.

VERY SPECIAL

“It’s unbelievable, they really help us,” Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. “It’s very special and it’s not something you get used to.”

Italy were surprised by how far they got after missing out on the last four Women’s World Cups. The team made the quarterfinals at the inaugural edition in 1991 and was knocked out in the group stage in 1999.

“The women’s game has been discovered and appreciated back home, so it’s a big deal,” Italy coach Milena Bertolini said. “I believe the girls have a greater confidence and awareness of what great players they are.

“They need to be proud of themselves. The way they played and approached matches and their passion, they’ve shown people back home that football can be a sport where you have enjoyment, helping one another, unity, and all these values. I think that’s why the public have fallen in love with this team.”