Andris Juncker had a brilliant plan when the Netherlands were set to face England in the UEFA Nations League draw. He immediately said enthusiastically to his old acquaintance Sarina Wegman: “With you at Wembley, with us at Quibb.” But to his and Wegmann’s disappointment, only the English part of the plan succeeded.
“Unfortunately, we cannot yet achieve this in De Kuip,” Junker says. The match will be played on Tuesday evening in Utrecht, with Galgenwaard FC tickets sold out. “I would love to play for De Kuip, but that is not yet financially possible.”
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Dirk Jacob Neubauer is a sports reporter for De Volkskrant He writes about football and handball. He was previously a Turkish political correspondent and journalist.
His disappointment is shared by Wegman, who returned as a coach to the Netherlands for the first time since her move to England. She has already played for the Dutch national team in front of more than 30,000 spectators at the Philips Stadium, but according to her this match was an “excellent opportunity” to jump into one of the biggest stadiums in the Netherlands. According to her, a well-equipped Cuip would have been a great promotion for women’s football. “I think you should do it once,” the success coach said.
The Dutch FA also wants it and has “every confidence” that the footballers will be playing at the Kuyp Arena or the Johan Cruyff Arena in the near future. A serious attempt was even made for a match against England, but after “weighing the pros and cons” the plan was not successful. According to the association, there are still a lot of financial and regulatory risks involved.
Many families with children
The time of the game – Tuesday evening at 8:00pm – was an important factor. Football matches attract a relatively large number of families with children who are expected to return to school the next day. “If the game had been on a Friday or Saturday evening, there would have been a good chance it would have taken place.”
According to the association, the match was expected to attract about 30,000 spectators on this day of the week. In addition, ticket prices, which are already lower for women than for men, have been adjusted “to allow as many people as possible to attend.”
Therefore, the Dutch Football Association moved away from this expected half-full lineup. It’s a bit painful, because in England we have already managed to fill Wembley Stadium completely or almost completely on several occasions. In 2019, for the first time, there were more than 80,000 spectators at a friendly match against Germany. Last year, Wegmann’s team won the European Championship final, and in the spring they defeated Brazil, the South American champion, in the “Finalissima”.
It is not yet certain whether we will be able to fill Wembley Stadium against the Netherlands on 1 December, as there are still tickets available. But English women’s football has certainly received a huge boost from winning the European Championship in their country. Many club matches also attract tens of thousands of fans at stadiums such as Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and the Emirates.
On Friday, nearly 42,000 spectators watched England beat Scotland. It was Wegman’s 40th international cap, winning no less than 38 matches. She has also beaten her old team: in preparation for last year’s European Championship, England defeated the Netherlands 5-1. The team lost only two matches, including the World Cup final in Sydney last August.
It worked again against Scotland, but the match ended only 2-1. England have been somewhat searching for the past year, partly due to injuries. Most of the matches are won, but Wigman and her assistant Arjan Vjorenc have to do a lot of puzzles. The Netherlands cannot say things are much better, as they lost 2-1 to Belgium on Friday.
An opportunity to play
For the Dutch national team, winning is actually necessary to have a chance at the Olympics. The UEFA Nations League finalists qualify for this, and as the host nation, France also ranks third. But only the group winners will qualify, and at the moment England are on track to do so.
It is strange that Wegman will be able to qualify for the Games with England, but he will play in Paris with a combined British team that includes footballers from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and also Scotland. “And we are in a group that includes England and Scotland,” Juncker says. “This is of course very strange, and in fact it is not possible at all.”
However, he assumes the Scots will do their best. This is all just because they don’t want to be relegated to a lower level in the Nations League. The stiff resistance they put up against England on Friday gives hope in this regard. If England qualify, Wegman will at least know she can go to the Games. The Dutchwoman heard last week that she would be the coach of the British team.
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