By Christian Radnedge
LYON, France (Reuters) – The Netherlands have recovered their flow at the women’s World Cup after feeling the pressure from being European champions, forward Vivianne Miedema said on Monday ahead of their maiden semi-final clash against Sweden.
The Dutch upset the odds to win the Euros on home soil two years ago, their first title in women’s football, but looked far from their best at the start of their second World Cup, despite going on to top Group E.
Miedema, who plays for English champions Arsenal, said the rough start was behind them as they looked forward to facing a Swedish side they knocked out in the quarter-finals of that triumphant Euro 2017 campaign.
“At the Euros no one really expected a lot from us. Once we started winning, our country stood behind and we just kind of got in that flow,” Miedema, who is the all-time top scorer for her country with 60 goals, told a news conference.
“And we came here and in Holland everyone said ‘oh they’ll be world champions’ and that gave us a lot of pressure.
“In the first couple of games we didn’t always play good football but we still got nine points and we are in the semi-finals right now so I think you can say we’re back in that flow.”
Coach Sarina Wiegman, who took charge in January 2017 and oversaw the rise in the world rankings from 12th to 8th, said the team had no choice but to adapt to the extra scrutiny.
“Since we won the Euros we’ve become much more visible, we have more media attention for our team and it’s become part of our lives right now and we need to deal with it and get better every game, so that’s what we’re working on,” Wiegman said.
The 49-year-old, a former midfielder who in 2001 became the first Dutch woman play 100 internationals, said she was hopeful influential striker Lieke Martens would play a part in Wednesday’s match despite carrying a toe injury.
The clash evokes memories of the Euro 2017 last eight showdown when Martens and Miedema scored in a 2-0 victory over Sweden, who were one of the tournament favourites having won Olympic silver in 2016.
Sweden defender Nilla Fischer, however, insisted neither that result nor the defeat by the Netherlands in the 2017 Algarve Cup would not be on their minds as they seek to reach their first World Cup final since 2003.
“A lot of things have happened since we played those matches and I don’t think we can draw any conclusions from those,” said the veteran centre back.
“We’ll be walking on to the pitch with a great amount of self-confidence as I’m sure they will be as well. We can go back and analyse the matches from that tournament but what’s happened has happened.”
The winners of Wednesday’s clash will seal a final spot against England or world champions the United States.
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)