the tears of Stephanie van der Graagt, the resentment of Lenneth Berenstein, as well as the matter-of-fact language of national coach Anders Junker; It was fragments related to the elimination of the Dutch national team in the World Cup. The semi-final may have felt close, but it was so far away at Sky Stadium in Wellington. Spain, who had never reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup, played better and kept scoring goals in extra time (2-1). Selma Baralelo was the match winner, allowing Spain to take on Sweden, who beat Japan 2-1 on Friday.
Orange’s removal led to mixed feelings among the staff and players. Lakey Martins couldn’t hold back her tears. “Soccer is sometimes very beautiful, but sometimes it is very painful,” said Martins. “This was a game full of supernatural emotions.” Goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar described the elimination as “just a shock”. Looking back on the entire tournament, she said Orange has made many strides in the past year. “My first World Cup experience was absolutely amazing. I’m very proud of the way we did it.”
That pride eventually prevailed, because the Netherlands showed that it was once again in touch with the world’s top. The European Championships also finished in the quarter-finals last year, but that was a bitter disappointment. At this World Cup, the team recovered under Junker, who provided clarity and gave the common atmosphere a boost.
He laid the foundation for the group victory at the World Cup, where Portugal was defeated (1-0) and America remained the world champions, who later went out in a tie (1-1). Captain Sherida Spetsi: “We’re back on top. We weren’t, but now we are. We can keep this going.” Junker was a bit more critical. “We can measure ourselves against the world top again, but we’d like to be better. But to be fair, Spain was a little bit better.”
Orange has been weighed and found to be too light for New Zealand’s capital. The shortcomings came to light against Spain, which was ranked sixth in the world rankings. Ahead of the tournament, the question was how the Orange, who played a familiar 5-3-2 system with attacking full-backs Ezmi Bruges and Viktoria Belova, would defend against a top nation. America has already partially exposed these shortcomings, but Spain has allowed Holland to fully figure it out. Also because the Orange failed to reach the ball for over an hour. As a result, Bruges and Belova remained offensively invisible, as did Martens, who played her 150th international match.
Could it be done differently? maybe. Junker declared that he did not want to make any concessions to his style of play and that he trusted the Netherlands to be better with the ball. A somewhat naive idea, because the Orange did not excel in possession throughout the tournament and were unable to create chances. Sooner or later, the three defenders, including the defensively weak Spetsi and Van der Graagt, ran into problems. This is exactly what happened against Spain.
Van der Gragt claimed the main role in what would later mean her last match. After eighty minutes, she first made a fool of herself by dodging a cross with her hand. De Var witnessed (rightfully) a penalty kick that she took through the post from Spain’s Mariona Caldente, 1-0. Incidentally, the VAR had previously drawn a line through a Spanish lead. It happened in the first half when Esther Gonzalez was offside. In that first half, the Netherlands didn’t make a single goal try.
In the first part after the break, the Orange became more in control of the match, especially after defender Len Willems was brought in for midfielder Gil Roard. At that point, the Netherlands appeared to be getting a golden opportunity. In a rare counter-blow, Berenstein was pushed to the ground by Spain’s Irene Paredes. Penalty kick, referee Frappart ruled. But the Frenchwoman was summoned to the screen by Farr. Incomprehensible, because her decision cannot be called one hundred percent wrong. So no penalty for the Netherlands after all.
After Spain came up 1-0 it was Van der Graagt who scored the equalizer. Sent in injury time. Spates: “She achieved this goal as if she had an angel on her shoulder. That’s beautiful.”
“The extension can be called a miracle”
Spain was much stronger and more dangerous in overtime. The lack of scoring ability at Orange again made itself felt. Once again, injured striker Vivian Miedema was absent. Berenstein still had two chances, but what she failed to do, Spanish substitute Baralelo did: 2-1.
Cautiously optimistic but also decisive, Orange may begin their comeback journey on Saturday. The goal achieved, to reach the quarter-finals, and there are plenty of positive comments to be made, such as the excellent performance of Van Doumselaar, the reliability of midfielder Jacqui Gronen and the still erratic talent. Team spirit is also good. “We gave it all,” Spizzi said afterwards.
Van der Graagt ends his career with a “bad feeling”
Stefanie van der Gragt says she ended her career with a “bad feeling”. She initially conceded a penalty against Spain, but equalized in injury time. And then you think: over and over again. Now I’ve stopped playing soccer and become the head coach of the women’s team from Arizona,’ said Nord Hollands.
Shortly after the defeat, van der Graagt could not say that she had ended her career with her head held high. “I’m still very sad that we didn’t make it.” She has played 107 international matches and won the 2017 European Championship in her country with Orange.
She referred to the 2019 tournament, where the “lionesses” reached the final: “We got the fans behind it and then we achieved great achievements at the World Cup in France.” “I always enjoyed it and always went into the Dutch national team with a smile.”
Andres Juncker, national team coach: Orange players must be protected
Orange began resting preparations for the World Cup in June. The players were given three weeks’ leave, although some clubs thought that was not enough.
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