Victoria Belova is a tantrum, or so she says about herself. If something happens that she doesn’t like, she can react angrily. For example, when Andries Juncker, the national team coach, said he was considering trying an attacking midfielder as a right-back, a winger who should come in a lot, but also be able to defend.
“Why?” , Belova (24 years old) immediately asked. “Didn’t I do well as a midfielder?” The trainer can immediately explain to her that this is not the problem. “He just said: Of all the midfielders, you’re the one who could also play in that role. So I had to see it in a positive light. That’s now more successful too.”
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Dirk Jacob Neubur, sports reporter De Volkskrant He writes about football and handball. He was a former Turkey correspondent and political journalist.
Junker knows with whom and how he wants to start the first match of the World Cup. He doesn’t say anything about it so as not to make Portugal the wiser opponent. Based on recent exhibition games, it would be surprising if the Netherlands didn’t start with a 5-3-2 system. It is possible that there are two wing-backs – Belova and Esme Bruges – who do not play in this position at their clubs nor aspire to do so.
In Eindhoven in the attack
“Of course I prefer the left wing,” says the 19-year-old Bruges, who was first tested as a left-back by Junker in November. While she is seen as one of the greatest Dutch talents as she is technically gifted and creative. At PSV she has also played as a striker in recent seasons.
Belova moved from Ajax to Arsenal this season. The English Premier League attracted her not because she could defend well, but because she could set fellow players free in front of goal with a through ball and squeeze herself from a small space while cutting, spinning and then providing an assist.
The fact that they now have to play in a different position raises many questions. Players give roughly interchangeable answers. “When we attack, it’s not much different for me,” Belova says. “Defending that takes some getting used to, of course, but it gets better and better,” says Bruges. Belova: “I’m open to a challenge.” Bruges: “It helps me a coach if I can play in several positions.”
They happily adjust to their new role in Orange, because they also know that otherwise they could fall by the wayside. Brugts is promising, but they lack experience and have veteran Lieke Martens as a challenger. Now she can be on the field with her former idol. “Of course, that’s great.”
As an attacking midfielder, Belova faces stiff competition from Gil Roord and Daniel van de Donk. The World Cup is her fourth major tournament, and in previous tournaments she was mainly a player. Now Junker seems to have found a way where he doesn’t have to choose from among his most creative players, he just grooms them all.
Just defend it. It’s a mirror image of the problem Louis van Gaal had when he played 5-3-2. He’s had to deal with a wing-back like Denzel Dumfries, who is hard to stop, but makes the ball exciting when he passes the ball up front. With a winger for Jonker, the question is how do you hold up when they have to defend their goal so closely.
“We can take a little risk in defence,” Bellova puts it in perspective. It’s one of the things Juncker introduced the new defenders to, she says. “Because we have a lot of players in the back. We just have to trust that. If we lose the ball, there are always the central defenders.
Assistant coach Yaniki Bell is now trying to improve the defensive skills of the two as much as possible. If things don’t really work out, Jonker can also choose Len Willms (Wolfsburg) and Kerstin Kasparig (Manchester City), who play (as wingers) in their clubs and are used to defending. But for now, the main question is whether and when Belova and Bruges will finally be tested on their defensive qualities.
“We haven’t been pressured yet,” Junker says. The Orange team has worked on their physique to be able to chase down the opponent, which has been successful so far. In the last public training match against Belgium, the ball barely got close to goalkeeper Daphne van Doumselaar. Progets and Belova, who scored, managed to throw away the offensive power.
Whether the two are really ready for their new role remains to be seen against Portugal on Sunday and especially against world champions America on Thursday. When Belova was recently asked if she could handle that, she responded with a question in return. “You, right?”
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