European Championships 2017
Final Preview

Netherlands – Denmark

Netherlands: 60% wpafw

There was already a spontaneous thought after the Danish semi final victory: It would be kind of making proceedings look complete if the football gods would decide to give the title to Denmark.
Not only in regards to favoring the underdogs against the women’s football establishment. But also regards closing down the differences between women’s and men’s European Championships. Who is interested in men’s football anymore? What was the ranking of Portugal going into last year’s EC tournament? This final looks little bit like the counterpart to France – Portugal last year.

But the gaps still should be bigger in women’s football and the tight results here have come mainly from the problems of the managements of the “establishment” to make their advantages count after however they were used to the fact they don’t need to do this because their better individuals would simply be enough like all the years before.
That doesn’t work anymore and the top teams managements get punished when they make faults. England can claim they had one bad day. Germany, France and Sweden weren’t managed well enough and thus didnt make it beyond the quarters. But more on this in our final resume …

The Netherlands won the group match 1:0 by means of an “unforced” penalty (that is one out of a subpar move of a defender in the own box while no big threat for the goal was pending). And they had all sorts problems of making their advantages count in that match as well. Denmark got very close to equalize and vanVeenendaal had to make some good saves. Pretty much like in the arguably only other match the Netherlands had been clear favorites so far: Against Belgium.

And it is also pretty much a similar problem that in turn England had faced against the Netherlands. The Netherlands like to attack direct. They dont like to be forced to make a patient game moving the ball around in midfield looking for the gaps and combining their way through a tight defense. Though they have some players who certainly could do that.

But this makes the role of the favorite more difficult or makes it less of an advantage when a team has the majority of the possession. Even more if falling behind.

Interesting would be some statistics to see how finals ended in comparison to group matches if the two teams met there earlier in a tournament.
Our German friends still remember a 54 WC title where they won against a then Hungarian “wonder team” after having lost the group match 3:7. Times are changing.
Not so far back we had that in the women’s final 4 years ago. But that can’t count for too much because Norway played the then last group match not with their best team because they were already qualified to go through. (Norway still won though, and the finals result was the other way round)
And we had a semi in Rio where Germany also could turn the group match result around and beat Canada after they lost the group match.

So Denmark will take a lot of confidence out of the group match to fancy their chances.

What to expect?

Will any team come up with any good tactical move to stun the opponents? We thought about whether it makes even sense to mention it because we haven’t seen anything of the kind yet and thus the probability is very small.
We expect both to play like they played all tournament long. That means the Netherlands will have to open up a very tight Danish defense that is very concentrated in the center.

Key questions?

From a defensive point of view such a concentrated block where the outside players move to the center is not a bad thing to avoid goals at first sight. But the big problem could be seen here also already. You have difficulties to clear the ball away when everything is close and sometimes even players are standing in the way of each other. But also you will have difficulties to play out of your own bloc because there are rather no players available to play to outside of your own small bubble. And you need some time to properly distribute your bodies over the pitch again. So you have to swallow a lot of pressure at times and balls you clear are coming straight back again. Denmark needed lots of good luck throughout the tournament when they got under pressure and weren’t able to get out of it. Against Belgium in the second half. Against Norway. Against Germany. Will they once again get lucky if they will face such phases of opposite pressure?

And so that should be also a main target for the opponents to apply enough pressure to let your opponent no space to breath and wait until they are finally unable to block all attempts. Playing high crosses above the block to the opposite side like the Miedema-goal also helps like everything to force the block to open up and force them to defend as wide outside on the wing as possible.

Should be an interesting aspect of the game to watch this.

In the other half of the pitch all eyes are on Pernille Harder who might play a decisive role in this match in whatever way it goes. How much can she take the pressure off the Danish defense and initiate attacks. The Danish chances might get better the less she needs to do that and the more the others are able to while Harder can put more focus on shifting her actions from far out in midfield closer to the Dutch goal.

Faults in the defense:
It is quite normal that at the end of such tournaments the freshness in lacking. Thus the ability to score goals with maximum precision is reduced. It is not a bad sign we had such goals in the quarters and the semis. But we often see faults decide. If any side can avoid clear faults in the own box it would be already a big bonus point for them.


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