The Netherlands, hosts of the Women’s Euro 2017, faced Norway (two time Champions of the tournament) in the opening game in Utrecht in front of 21,732 spectators.
The Netherlands’ formation was a 4-2-3-1 with a solid back four where FBs rarely joined the attack. In the middle, Spitse next to Groenen were going to manage the tempo of the game for the Netherlands. Groenen had more freedom to join the attack while Spitse stayed deeper to provide a defensive balance to the team.
On the left wing was Lieke Martens, a very quick and unpredictable player who would end up being the player of the match. On the right, Shanice van de Sanden, also a very quick and strong player.
Norway opted for a more defensive approach with a 4-4-2 formation and tried to hit the Netherlands in the counter attack but did not create too many chances, only 2 shots on target in comparison to 8 by the Dutch.
Holland’s match plan was very clear from kick off as they created their first chance after just 30 seconds after the beginning of the first half.
Netherlands always tried to play out from the back and tried to get the ball to their wingers quickly, Martens or van de Sanden, either by receiving into feet or in space. Both of them were going to be crucial for the Netherlands’ win.
In the following video, you’re going to watch how the Netherlands’ tactical play was to find their wingers to create occasions. Martens and van de Sanden were always providing width to Netherlands attack while Groenen and van de Donk joined the attack constantly in the middle to overload Norway’s back line of 4 defenders, changing the Netherlands’ shape to a 4-1-5 during phases of the match.
Quick, unpredictable, confident, capable of crossing with her left or right foot and very good in 1v1 or 1v2 situations, Martens was without a doubt the player of the match and a player to follow during the competition. Playing on the left wing she was impossible to stop for the Norwegians defenders.
In the following the video, you’re going to see how Martens was unstoppable. Unpredictable because she was constantly changing which route she was going to take, sometimes cutting inside to combine, mainly, with Miedema or running on the left wide channel to deliver good crosses.
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SHANICE VAN DE SANDEN
Very quick, strong, more predictable than Martens but still very good at finding spaces behind defenders, was another crucial player for the Netherlands. Not only because she scored the winning goal but also by the number of times she found space and exploited those spaces behind Norway’s left back.
You’re going to see in the following video why she was more predictable than Martens but very effective on the right wing. During this match, her main plan was to drag Thorsnes (Norway’s left back) wide to create an inner channel between Thorsnes her centre back Nora Holstad Berge, to receive through passes, mainly from Groenen and deliver low crosses into the 18 yard box.
In 1v1 situations, she rarely tried to dribble past her defender, she preferred to use her pace to find passes into space behind Norway’s back line. If defenders make her receive in wide channels and stay compact to avoid leaving gaps for midfielders to play through passes, she could be well controlled.
THE NETHERLANDS’ GOAL
The only goal of the match was a good example of the Netherlands’ tactical plan. Groenen received the ball in the middle and as soon as she turned, she opened the play out to the left side for Martens who received the ball with space in front of her to drive into. Martens decided on this occasion to deliver an early left footed cross behind the Norwegian defenders as van de Sanden made a great run between Thorsnes (LB) and Holstad Berge (CB) to finish with a great header away from Hjelmseth.
The Netherlands didn’t score more goals during the opening match, mainly, for 2 reasons:
1: Ingrid Hjelmseth, the Norwegian goalkeeper.
2: Dutch players not being clinical enough in the final third.
The experienced (37 years old) Norwegian keeper, Hjelmseth, had a great match and kept her national team alive making brilliant saves as you’ll see in the following video.
Dutch players, on the other hand, need to be more clinical in the final third, if they want to achieve a great result during the Women’s Euro which is played on their soil. The Netherlands created a lot of chances (18 shots in total, 8 on target).
In the following video, you can notice how Miedema is capable of creating chances on her own but her finishes let her down during this match. Also, van de Sanden was constantly getting into very good spaces behind Norway back line but her passes/crosses were not good enough for her teammates to finish the plays.
Norway made two substitutions before conceding the only goal of the match without changing their shape or match plan apart from Mjelde moving to a CM position and Thorisdottir dropping back to CB. On the 75th minute, Martin Sjögren (Norway’s manager) made his 3rd substitution and Norway’s formation was going to change to a 4-3-3 but without any success.
Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands’ manager) made all her substitutions after her side’s goal without changing her formation or match tactical plan. The Netherlands never gave up their attacking mentality and always tried to increase the score until the last breath of the match.
The Netherlands were the better team on the pitch at Stadion Galgenwaard in Utrecht, creating many more chances than their opposition, being very solid at the back and frustrating Norwegian attacks.
It was a great result for the Netherlands but also a promising performance, especially, if they keep their style of play and become more clinical in the final third.