The Netherlands got the job done at Bramall Lane in sweltering conditions to secure progress to the quarter-finals but despite a 4-1 win they did not score enough to top the group and will next play a dangerous-looking France side.
The Oranje only needed a draw to qualify, but despite the best efforts of Switzerland, were able to emerge victorious. The Dutch were tested early on in the game by Switzerland’s persistent, high press. Such was the effectiveness of Nils Nielsen’s 4-2-3-1 setup that they were able to deny Lieke Martens, usually, a defensive nightmare on the Netherlands left flank, access to the ball.
In contrast, the Swiss attack were powering through the opposition midfield with ease, evident through Sandy Maendly’s curling effort at goal in the 12th minute that had to be tipped over to safety by Daphne van Domselaar, and compounded by Ramona Bachmann’s swashbuckling runs down both flanks.
A sloppy start from the Oranje worked very well for Switzerland, buoying their qualification hopes. Yet what they had failed to factor in was the Netherlands’ second wind – which they had displayed in all of their first-half performances across the Euros.
As the Netherlands’ attack regained more possession, more passes trickled through to Martens and Lineth Beerensteyn. Eight minutes later the Dutch attack latched on to one of those through balls, with Beerensteyn leading the charge. Driving towards Gaelle Thaimann’s goal, her long legs seemed to become entangled with the keeper’s hesitant hands and in a flash, referee Juliana Demetrescu had pointed to the penalty spot.
A few moments of VAR inspection later and replays would show the keeper had just got her glove to the ball. The overturned decision, however, would only allow a brief reprieve before Mark Parsons’ side got going again.
First, it was Jackie Groenen who unleashed a volley from the six-yard box from a smart corner routine. Following up was Martens in the 34th minute, whose looping header was pushed over the goal by Thaimann’s outstretched fingers.
Nielsen’s team would have to summon the same energy that they had started the game with to create a shift in momentum. However, before they could muster up a charge, Ana-Maria Cmogorcevic had headed into her own goal.
The Swiss midfielder had been attempting to clear Stefanie van der Gragt’s header from a corner kick. Instead, she gave her side the mountainous task of needing to score twice against the holders of the tournament. Yet where there’s a will, there’s a way, chiefly in Bachmann. The attacker muscled her way into the box four minutes later, squaring the ball to Geraldine Reuteler who toe-poked it past Domselaar to level the scoring.
The Dutch keeper would be in the thick of the action not seconds later where she made three saves on the goalmouth to keep her side in the team while her defence faltered and tottered.
Parsons’ response would be to controversially take off the experienced attackers Martens and Beerenstyne, alongside steadfast defenders Aniek Nouwen and Jill Roord. Perhaps he had one eye on the quarter-finals and a focus on coaching his star players through 30-degree heat to make it to next weekend’s match.
The mass exodus wouldn’t matter. The Netherlands continued their assault on Thaimann and the Swiss keeper once again had to make a brilliant array of saves to keep it at 1-1. It would take a decisive header in the 84th minute for her goal to be breached again, coming from substitute Romee Leuchter, before the floodgates opened for the third and the fourth during stoppage time.
At the final whistle, the two teams had huffed and puffed, and when the dust settled, a sea of orange remained, celebrating long into the arid evening. Next up for Parsons and his team? A quarter-final in Rotherham on Saturday against France.
July 18, 2022 at 12:11AM Maryam Naz at Bramall Lane