Tonight, reigning European champions the Netherlands will take on France in a battle to secure their place in this year’s semi-finals.
There’s one spot left in the final four and it’s fully up for grabs — but the Netherlands could well have the edge over their upcoming opponents.
France’s quarter-final curse
The Netherlands ended the Euro 2022 group stage level on points with Sweden. An inferior goal difference see the Dutch play the winners of Group D, France. These two nations faced off earlier this year in the Tournoi de France, where the home side won 3-1.
Two of the French goals came from Marie-Antoinette Katoto who sustained a “serious knee injury” in their second group match versus Belgium. Unfortunately for the Dutch, Melvine Malard, Katoto’s replacement, is still one of the best strikers in the world.
Journalists, pundits and commentators alike are obsessed with the statistic that France have never made it past the quarter-finals in any major tournament. This is for good reason. Olympique Lyonnais won the Champions League a record-breaking eight times. PSG, the other major club in France, has also been frontrunners in recent UEFA competitions.
Why is France not successful on the international level? The simple answer is drama off the field.
Head coach Corinne Diacre left Katoto, D1 Arkema’s top scorer, off the roster for the 2019 World Cup. This time around, Amandine Henry and Eugénie Le Sommer also received the short end of the stick.
Diacre’s harsh methods, along with injuries and terrible personal news, may make France’s quarter-final curse stronger than ever.Embed from Getty Images
How the Dutch can win
France has arguably the most talented squad at this year’s Euros. Attacking minded fullbacks, rapid wingers and technical strikers have annihilated weaker opposition time after time.
The French fullbacks are critical to their style of play. Les Bleus overload the flanks to build their attack. From here, the ball is switched through the midfield or pushed into the box. Extra wide players allow the French to be unpredictable in their passing and runs as well as provide more bodies in the box.
If the Dutch fail to play their cards right, it will cost them dearly.
Mark Parsons insists on putting Dominique Janssen at left back, a position where she is not comfortable. At centre-back, Janssen is high quality. Her partnership with Stefanie van der Gragt provides a sense of calm and experience, becoming the foundation for the entire backline. This experience and organisation will be critical for not conceding against the French.
To make up for lack of speed and awareness in defensive wide areas, both Sherida Spitse and Jackie Groenen will need to be alert. Both players have had an excellent tournament thus far, and this is expected to continue.Embed from Getty Images
Another major decision involves the Dutch front three. Head coach Mark Parsons played Daniëlle van de Donk or Jill Roord across from an injured Lieke Martens in their group stage matches.
This strategy was largely unsuccessful. The only opportunities van de Donk and Roord found were in central areas. As these players occupy similar roles when in their preferred position, Parsons needs to consider who is most suited to play ahead of Groenen and Spitse.
Roord has certainly put her best foot forward. Her link-up play with the frontline and vision in midfield are necessary characteristics to compete against the French.
If these changes are made, Victoria Pelova, Esmee Brugts, or Lineth Beerensteyn could start. As Vivianne Miedema has returned from COVID-19, Romee Leuchter is unlikely to start. Pelova and Brugts were large contributors to the Dutch’s 4-1 defeat of Switzerland. Both are fast, technical and have everything to play for.
Miedema needs distribution from her wingers and midfield in order to score.
The Dutch need to be clinical to advance, and this may only be possible if Miedema does not play a deeper role.