‘Because Wiegman is no longer there’

AP

NOS Football

  • Thierry Boon

    On behalf of the NOS at the European Championship women’s football

  • Thierry Boon

    On behalf of the NOS at the European Championship women’s football

John Street, Sheffield. To the right of those little brick row houses. A door, one window below, one window above, a dish and that’s about it. On the left the gates of Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United. Also made of brick, but recognizable by the roof construction.

At the end of the street, on the corner, you can just catch a glimpse of the Cricketers Arms Pub, which from the outside looks about as old as the stadium, which dates back to 1885. It is the oldest stadium in the world in which professional football is always played.

You can’t get much more English than that. And not much more romantic, actually. It can’t be the theater tonight, when the Orange women start their European Championship against Sweden. The turf also breathes football.

No, if it’s disappointing, it’s really because of the protagonists.

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Bramall Lane, the ancient stadium with a beautiful turf in Sheffield

Expectations in the Dutch media have moderated quite a bit lately. It would be very difficult for the Netherlands to extend the European title five years ago. But how do people actually look at Orange abroad?

Orange attracts a lot of attention

It is crowded in the press room of the stadium on Friday evening. Ten cameras and as many as fifty international journalists await the first press conference of the reigning European champion.

Katie Shanahan is one of them. She was specially sent on behalf of the English Sky Sports to follow the Netherlands. She was there when the Orange squad lost 5-1 against England in the preparation.

“That the European champion loses with such big figures was a surprise. With that match in mind, it can be a difficult tournament for the Orange,” she thinks.

NOS

Nevertheless, Shanahan mentions the Netherlands as one of the favorites of this European Championship. “Against England Vivianne Miedema only came in after an hour. I think we have not seen the best of them yet. Orange can grow in the tournament. Many players were already there at the European Championships in 2017.”

No more Wiegman (1)

The English journalist does notice a big difference with then: “Sarina Wiegman is no longer there. She is of course a great national coach and may now be able to make a difference for England at home.”

Shanahan is not so enthusiastic about the current national coach, Englishman Mark Parsons. “I don’t think many English know anything about him. Of course he has mainly trained in America, but this is a great opportunity for him to work with Orange. shine in England.”

Parsons relies on ‘intelligence’ Orange women against Sweden

The Orange players had to drive east for about an hour and a half to arrive in Sheffield from their base camp in Manchester. Winding through the hills of the green Peak District National Park.

Sheffield is not buzzing (yet)

In the center of Sheffield, the European Championship fever is not exactly contagious on Friday. The city, which has grown through the steel industry, is doing its best. Flags of the countries that play in Sheffield hang in the streets and here and there you see UEFA banners.

But let’s be honest: it’s not really cozy yet. That will undoubtedly be different when the fan square in the Devonshire Gardens is filled with about 2,500 Dutch people, who then go to the stadium in the well-known Orange March.

NOS

A banner with the group of the Netherlands along the road in Sheffield

The match against the number two of the Olympic Games is immediately the most difficult group match for the Orange Women. The Netherlands and Sweden are seen as the two strongest teams in the group, followed by Switzerland and Portugal.

“The Netherlands’ attack is world-class. They will pose a threat to Sweden, because it is not too good in the back there,” predicts Olof Lundh, who traveled to Sheffield on behalf of Swedish television channel TV4.

No more Wiegman (2)

He puts his money on his own country rather than on the Netherlands as the winner of this European Championship. “Especially because Wiegman is gone. She was such an important part of your team. Parsons is not a bad coach, but it’s always different when a newcomer comes in.”

Swedish players believe in European championship: ‘Really built something’

And there is something striking about the Swedish team, says Lundh. “We Swedes are not like the Dutch can be. We are not arrogant, except for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, haha. But Swedes will never go to a tournament and say they are going to win. But this team does.”

“They took bronze at the World Cup in 2019, silver at the Olympics in 2021 and now they are talking about gold at this European Championship. That is unusual for athletes from Sweden and says a lot about this team.”