2017 European Championships:
Final: Netherlands-Denmark 4:2

Situation:

The preview here has a more detailed description of the situation. In short, we remember both teams going into the tournament ranked 6th (12th in the world; Netherlands) and 8th (15th in the world) of the 16 participating teams; not far above average that is. And from a logical analyst point of view you can now ask why no better ranked teams were involved in the final coming from basically two kind of opposing starting points: Either the ranking is not very reliable overall to show who is good and who is bad. Or the ranking is reliable but the teams showed different faces from their “true” performance levels during this tournament.
Maybe we will have a look in our final resume but either way: The Netherlands had shown they were the team of the tournament so far with five wins out of five. And Denmark has shown there is no longer an seemingly eternal rule in place that disallows average ranked teams to kick the asses of the big favorites and eight times champions out of the tournament. But could they kick the Dutch?

Headline: Netherlands 6 out of 6

Congratulations to the Netherlands.
They made it: Six matches played – Six times victorious.
An impressive series that seems to be extremely rare for such a championship where everybody – we not excluded – talked about every team so close and difficult to beat. And that leaves no doubt the Netherlands have been the best team during these three interesting weeks and are well deserved champions of Europe.
They were the only team to find the right answers for all the questions they were asked. And Denmark asked a big question in this final once again. In fact Denmark asked a bigger question than Sweden did in the quarters and England did in the semis. The Netherlands were asked to overcome the shock of an early conceded goal and of an equalizer. And the Netherlands found always an answer. The Danish team did a lot to make this a very open and interesting contest. But the Netherlands responses were topping that. And finding a better answer to whatever their opponents threw at them was what the Netherlands were able to do in all six matches. Thus we have rarely seen such an impressive winner.

What happened on the pitch

It all started with a good example of what can happen randomly on a football pitch and how much the football gods are able to have their say if they want to. Because it started with a penalty. There was rather no doubt that was the right decision. And it was kind of very lucky for Denmark. Because a rather poor touch from Nadia Nadim was rewarded. She couldnt control the ball that bounced away from her unexpectedly just behind Kika van Es who stood close by. She turned around and wanted to clear the ball but did realize too late her turn took her too long and Susanne Troelsgaard came just running into the right direction and got to it a split second earlier. It would have been no danger because Troelsgaard was running in a direction away from the goal.
But sometimes this happens and one teams gets a lead more or less out of nothing for nothing. Sometimes this even can include a red card if it would have been another positional constellation of the players. But the gods decided the lead was enough. The penalty very well taken.
The 0:1 was calming down the enthusiasm on the stands significantly. But the relief was all the greater when the equalizer came not long after that. Denmark had already asked a lot of the football gods so far earlier in this tournament not to punish their defense (except in the semis). But three minutes after the 1:0 they changed their mind abruptly. Suddenly they started to punish the Danish defense heavily for their faults. Van de Sanden once again could not be stopped running down the flank and the wilder her high crosses sometimes are distributed all over the place the better timed are her flat passes there. Denmark for the first time wasn’t lucky enough to close their center properly. 1:1 Vivianne Miedema. But that was not the only gap that the usually so tightly centered block of the Danish team opened up. Not much later Lieke Martens found another gap straight in the middle with a shot straight through the middle and the Netherlands conceded a goal straight through an area where no team so far was very successful: The Danish center.
But still it wasn’t the end of the wild swings of the first half. Pernille Harder also like rarely before in the tournament finally got the ball far up front in a good position to go 1-vs-1 against a defender with space in the box. Anouk Dekker couldn’t manage to get near the ball and it was easier done than said for Herder and it was 2:2 before half time.
The wild and untamed midfield action calmed down in the second half though. Both seemed to play a little bit more safe than sorry and that mainly helped the Dutch because the once wide open spaces for Harder and Nadim suddenly seemed to be much tighter. But mainly it helped the Dutch because they were the ones who got gifted again to take the lead. Not only was the free kick given away poorly – and again in the center. It was a little bit of a shadow on an otherwise very good advertising for women’s football that another match was decided by such a poor fault. Probably like a good pro goalie Petersen has studied the Netherlands offense and seen a video of Lieke Martens free kick goal against Sweden. Unfortunately that was one of the poorest faults in a tournament of poor goalkeeping so far. But why was she unable then to avoid a nearly even more horrible fault? Nobody knows but the ball was nearly only rolled into the corner that was not covered by the wall. It wasn’t even a decent free kick. But because the keeper preferred to cover out of the two available corners the same like the wall it rolled over the line.
That was the poor 2:3 and it somehow felt already like the decision because Denmark had already had their comeback but looked getting more tired now. Still they fought back bravely and still they got good chances that missed narrowly but the gods didn’t change their minds anymore.
And they did well to let the Netherlands in the form of Vivianne Miedema have the final say. The 4:2 right at the end summed up the tournament of the newly crowned champions perfectly.

Tactics

Netherlands-Denamrk tactical line-up
tactical line-up

Everything pretty much like expected (we already had this sentence before and mentioned there rarely have been inventive changes to upset opponents or adapt to own problems) and like we had it already.
Denmark however had to replace injured Line Jensen and brought in S. Pedersen instead and they switched at left back from Roddik to Sandvej.

The starting line-ups:

Netherlands: Van Lunteren – Dekker – Van der Gragt – Van Es. Call it the midfield row if you want but with : Feiersinger – Schnaderbeck – Zadrazil – Puntigam – Billa. And Burger up top.

Denmark: Nielsen – Boye – Larsen – Roddik. You can call it the midfield from right to left: Troelsgaard – Kildemoes – S.Pedersen – Veje. Nadim up front at the shoulder of the opposite center backs and Harder in between trying to put it all together in the offense.

And then the match started and indeed there had been slight tweaks to the usual set up. Not that Denmark pushed Nielsen further up on her wing in possession of the ball. That was already seen but used very offensively here from the start. Also Harder and the whole Danish midfield started rather high up the pitch. While the Dutch got it wrong. But maybe it happened incidentally.
After the first game it was a good tweak to shift Groenen more forward from the deep number 6 role she was playing there. But now it was too much. Had they got it right? Groenen’s biggest advantage at the moment is still winning balls in midfield and building an obstacle in front of your defense that is very difficult to overcome (she needs time to further develop her style of play on the ball). Whereas Spitse is not able to hold the number 6 position all alone against a decent opponent. Whatever the reason was. Somebody finally after endless 45 minutes must have got the idea that this wasn’t the most useful way they had played here and they should avoid conceding 2 more goals.
Usually you would assume it was one of the players because those on the bench should have had the time to react much earlier. But thanks to the Danish own box barricade not working properly this time the Netherlands were still in the game and it was 2:2 and thus yet early enough to find the answer before it was game over.

Summary and Resume

There will be a separate resume for the tournament as a whole. As far as the Netherlands are concerned of course they will have to do heavy homework after the celebration phase. We remember the “team USA” after the World Cup win in Canada 2015 and how they more looked like a moving zoo at exhibitions all around the country rather with no time to remove the “Please do not feed” signs around their necks between all the gigs they had to join.
But organizing one or two additional matches to create some revenue to fund further activities wouldn’t be the worst idea. But there should be some additional money also made available by the Dutch FA to further strengthen the women’s department of the game.
Fortunately for them they are the anti-Swedes regarding their squad with the younger being the ones who had been the main pillars of their success and thus no decline in sight because players have to quit because of their age. However also will depend a lot for the squad on further development. Don’t overestimate this result but keep a realistic prospect, and take nothing for granted in the future. It is not all gold that glitters. But enjoy the moment of your big triumph.

Denmark also have had an astonishing tournament. They needed a lot of good luck initially and it seemed they could be out after the group stage going into the last 15 minutes of play there. And they started the quarter final just as badly.
But then something turned around.
The players suddenly seemed to get better instead of more fatigued. They will remain to be known as the team that was able to end Germany’s reign. They held off unstoppable Austria (at least unstoppable for the Swiss, France, and Spain). And they were a tougher test for the Dutch than Sweden and England in the ko-stages. They showed they are a much stronger team than expected and than their 8th ranking shows. And there is much more potential than expected. Would they get their goalie right and their center right and their offensive set up right – they could develop into one of the powerhouses of European women’s football as well.
But we will see. And there might be an interesting duel coming up in the WC qualifier group against Sweden. And just like for the Netherlands who have Norway as top seed in their qualifier group – after the EC is in front of the WC to Β just like . Who will get the best out of their team.

 


Player Ratings:

DENMARK:

Petersen: 4.5
Not her match but one big save

Nielsen: 7
Still a high work rate

Boye Sorensen: 7
Solid center back like usual

Larsen: 6.5
Solid center back partner like usual

Sandvej: 6
Not as fast as a train. but be clever then

Troelsgaard: 7
Rather active part of the midfield

S.Pedersen: 6
Solid work good replacement

Kildemoes: 6
Solid part of the game

Veje: 7
Strong fight again on the left flank

Harder: 8
Again very active and the main force

Nadim: 5.5
Pity many reserves left unused her

 

NETHERLANDS:

VanVeenendaal: 6.5
Some crosses looked dangerous

Van Lunteren: 7.5
Again very solid stopping attempts on her side.

Dekker: 6.5
Solid center back part

Van der Gragt: 6.5
Understandably tired and early yellow

Van Es: 6.5
Solid performance.

Groenen: 6.5
Least dominant performance here in first half

Spitse: 6
Exposed when alone

Van de Donk: 7
Not as influential as against England

Miedema: 8
Always a threat and two goals in a final

van de Sanden: 7.5
Still high energy level performance.

Martens: 7
Strong opponents but still a goal

 

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