So the future really was orange, we just did not realise the gender would be female. While the once-lauded Dutch men’s team now struggle to even qualify for tournaments the women yesterday won the nation’s first trophy since 1988.
A dramatic, absorbing finale was finally settled when Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema scored her second goal two minutes from time. With five wins from five this was a triumph as deserved as it was unexpected. A gender triumph, too, for Sarina Weigman, one of six female coaches in the 16-team tournament, who ensured the big prizes – World Cup, Olympics and Euros – remain in female coaches’ hands. But it was a triumph mostly for the Dutch women’s football, which now has a place in the hearts of a country that barely knew it existed four weeks ago.
All weekend the roads and trains heading to this small city on the Netherlands’ eastern border with Germany had been busy with orange-clad supporters. The Oude Markt in Enschede’s town centre was abuzz from mid-morning before thousands joined the three-mile Fan March to the stadium.
Sherida Spitse adds the hosts’ third goal (Getty)
They arrived to discover their team were fielding the same XI that defeated Sweden, then England, in the knock-out stages, with ten having also played in the 1-0 group match victory over Denmark. There were eight Danish survivors from that game in Rotterdam, won by a Sherida Spitse penalty, and nine from the penalty shoot-out semi-final defeat of Austria.
This meant while there were three Arsenal and one Liverpool player in the Dutch team, and two more WSL representatives coming off the bench, the Danes had no UK-based players with Manchester City’s Mie Leth Jans injured in the group stages. A similar fate befell her Dutch club-mate Tessel Middag before the finals and the midfielder admitted this week she has found watching the games ‘hard’.
She was not alone once this match started as both sets of supporters found themselves aboard a rollercoaster of ecstasy and despair. The match was barely five minutes old when Nadia Nadim miscontrolled a loose ball. Kika van Es also missed it and Sarah Troelsgaard ran into and leapt over her thigh. As dives go it was a masterpiece, proof that as the women’s game matures players will perfect the dark arts of the men’s game as well as the skills.
Sari van Veenendaal makes a save for the Netherlands (Getty)
The responsibility of taking it fell to Nadim. Pressure? Not when you have…