Miedema’s maturity fuels Netherlands hopes of retaining Euro crown | Women’s Euro 2022

Jhe Netherlands are about to enter Euro 2022 but all is not as it should be when it comes to starters. The side that lifted the trophy five years ago at home amid fanatical support have had a bumpy run in recent weeks and will face tournament favorites Sweden at Bramall Lane on Saturday night .

Two weeks ago the Orange Lionesses lost 5-1 to England – their biggest defeat in 11 years. The game, and especially the second half, was a reality check for the players and head coach Mark Parsons, the England manager who took over from Sarina Wiegman last year. The Netherlands did not respond to the power of England and the match turned into a procession. “I should have stepped in and I didn’t, so it’s not their fault,” Parsons said after the humiliating loss.

They recovered to win their next two games, against Belarus (3-0) and Finland (2-0), although the defense continued to look unreliable and they struggled to put on heavy pressure on their opponents, which Parsons wants them to do.

However, despite all the pre-tournament issues, there is a certain factor that keeps the defending champions among the favorites: the quality of the players.

There’s Lieke Martens, Jill Roord and Daniëlle van de Donk – who has just recovered from injury – and then there’s Vivianne Miedema, a player so good she can win games on her own. The Arsenal forward has scored 94 goals in 111 appearances for the Netherlands, making her the country’s top scorer, male or female.

Miedema has been around for so long that she is considered a veteran, but she is still a week away from turning 26, having made her debut as a 17-year-old nine years ago.

Her first impression of the team was not so good, she later said. “The moment I entered the camp, I was put aside in a small room to do my homework. When I was done, I was seated at the dinner table between players who were at least 10 years older than me.

Vivianne Miedema celebrates scoring against Denmark in the Euro 2017 final. The Netherlands won the match, at Twente Stadion, 4-2. Photo: Christof Köpsel/UEFA/Getty Images

Over the years, Miedema has matured on and off the pitch. Where at first she would hang around and make a grumpy face on the pitch when things didn’t go her way, now she’s establishing herself as a leader, trying to get everyone back on the same level. ‘wave. As a member of the gaming committee, she demanded that women be paid the same as men to do promotional work. Last month there was a breakthrough, when the players and the Dutch federation (KNVB) reached an agreement on equal pay.

In England, which she calls her “first home”, Miedema’s status is even greater than in her country of birth. “People there must be tired of seeing my face, because it’s everywhere,” she said after a recent practice session. She recently signed a new contract at Arsenal, where she played for five years, adding at least two more. This makes her – in her own words – the “highest paid” player in the WSL.

Although it seems like everything Miedema touches turns to gold, it hasn’t always been easy. During her first year at Arsenal, after the Orange Lionesses’ Euro success, the striker ran into a wall, as she mentioned in an interview with Dutch magazine Helden. “First I was nobody, then suddenly I became famous,” she said. Miedema told how she was suffering from severe panic attacks at the time. “After an attack, I couldn’t do anything for three days; I was lying on the couch and had to skip several workouts.

Talking to a psychologist has helped her be more open about her feelings, and the change has been noticeable to her teammates: “They see that I’m not as sullen and closed off as I look.” She completed her therapy sessions a month ago which made her feel mentally and physically ready for the Euros.

Vivianne Miedema

The Netherlands’ first opponents are worried about Miedema’s teammate Stina Blackstenius. An old thigh injury has resurfaced during Sweden’s preparation and there’s a good chance the striker will start on the bench. “It’s not fun at all,” Blackstenius said. “You want to get involved and participate at all costs. I’ve been looking forward to this championship for so long and being on the sidelines is not optimal.

Although it would be a blow for Sweden, they have plenty of other qualities with players such as Fridolina Rolfö, who made the Champions League final for Barcelona, ​​Chelsea’s Magdalena Eriksson, Caroline Seger and Kosovare Asllani.

After winning silver at the Olympics last year, Sweden will be hoping to clinch their first trophy since 1984, when they won the inaugural European Women’s Championship. They have been three-time Euro runners-up and look like strong candidates to advance to another final under their head coach, Peter Gerhardsson.

But the finale seems miles away as they head to Bramall Lane, where 11 hungry Orange Lionesses, including Miedema, await them.

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