The ebb and flow of form in women’s football is common given its recent growth in popularity and investment. The last time the Netherlands and Sweden faced off was in the 2019 Women’s World Cup semi-final.
The game ended in a 1-0 win for the Dutch, with Jackie Groenen scoring a late winner in extra time. For the Netherlands, the World Cup ended an era of surprising success. For Sweden, the World Cup marked the beginning of a climb to become the highest ranked side in Europe.
After reaching the Olympic final last summer, Sweden have cemented themselves as one of the favourites to win Euro 2022. Sweden are also favorites to beat the Netherlands in their first group stage match. There are two main reasons why.
A key area for both national teams is their defensive lines, but for very different reasons.
Sweden possess some of the best defenders in the women’s game. Centre-back pair Magdalena Eriksson and Amanda Ilestedt ensure a stable, organised and experienced backline. Hanna Glas and Jonna Andersson round out the defence.
Both full-backs are effective driving forward or staying home. Eriksson, Ilestedt, Glas and Andersson each have more than 50 caps for the national team and all represented Champions League sides this past domestic season.
For the Netherlands, the defensive line is a constant burden. No matter the amount of goals scored, the attacking line cannot make up for the mistakes a managerial shift and generation change brings. Gapping plagues the backline due to the high press coach Mark Parsons is implementing. These issues, coupled with a lack of speed, suggests the Dutch may face an unpleasant challenge against Sweden.
The current Sweden side will, most likely, pose a significant threat to the Dutch backline. Stina Blackstenius and Lina Hurtig make lethal runs off the ball, while Sofia Jakobsson and Fridolina Rolfö are hard to defend against in a one versus one situation.
If Sweden feel stuck, Kosovare Asllani can drop into a false nine role to allow the wingers to drift central. This poses a problem for a Netherlands side that has struggled to cope with the opposition getting behind their back line.
Although Sweden lack the star power of talents such as Vivianne Miedema or Lieke Martens, their pool of international level players is far greater. Just five of Sweden’s 23 player squad play in the Damallsvenskan. The rest either play in the NWSL or for teams that have qualified for the Champions League next season.
In comparison, less than half of players in the Dutch squad represent clubs outside the Netherlands, and even less will be in the Champions League in 2022/23.Embed from Getty Images
Depth is crucial in major tournaments. The ability to have different options off the bench is the difference between who advances and who does not.
Teams become predictable without the ability to change formation or tactics from match to match. The Netherlands ran into this problem in the Olympics. The Dutch made one substitution in the quarter-finals during regulation time, while their opponents, the United States, made five. This leaves tired legs, especially if the Dutch advance beyond the quarter finals this tournament.
Sweden does not face this issue. In fact, Sweden left players such as Julia Roddar, Anna Anvegård and Madelen Janogy off the roster because there was not enough room.