(Reuters) – Success has come at a cost for the Netherlands at the women’s World Cup as increased media scrutiny has turned up the pressure on Sarina Wiegman’s side after they booked their spot in the knockouts with three straight wins.
Dutch fans have flocked to nearby France to support the team and their players have adorned both the front and back pages of the home newspapers as they reached the last 16 for the second straight tournament with wins over Cameroon, New Zealand and Canada.
The increased media attention, however, has led to some prickly and opinionated analysis of their style of play.
Securing top spot in Group E to set up a second-round meeting with 2011 world champions Japan on Tuesday has not been met with universal acclaim in a country that has traditionally demanded that its teams not only win, but do it in style.
“The media has become a lot harder,” said coach Wiegman, as her players expressed relief at beating Canada 2-1 in their last group game on Thursday.
“We are now under a magnifying glass. It increased after we won the European Championship two years ago but now competing in this big tournament, everyone has an opinion.
“Whichever way you look at it, it’s all new for us and it is difficult, but it is something we have to learn to deal with.
“It’s not that we set out to bore people. We do want people to enjoy the way we play. But most important we want to win and luckily that has happened.”
Striker Vivianne Miedema said the win over Canada came at the perfect time to show what the team could do.
“We were all aware of that (the criticism) but at the top sport level it is all about consistency,” she said.
Women’s football received little attention in the Netherlands, even after the national team qualified for their first World Cup appearance in Canada four years ago.
Their surprise success in the European Women’s Championship on home soil in 2017, however, thrust them into the spotlight, with players like Miedema and Lieke Martens becoming well-known.
Some 2.76-million television viewers watched Thursday’s win over Canada, setting a new record for the team, according to figures released on Friday.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis)