Paris: The Netherlands stand one step away from their first ever women’s World Cup final thanks to a core of players aiming to conquer the world after taking Arsenal back to the top in England.
Vivianne Miedema’s thumping headed opener in their 2-0 quarter-final win over Italy on Saturday helped give her side a last-four clash with Sweden on Wednesday. It was her third in France after scoring an astonishing 31 goals in 28 games for the Gunners as they won their first Women’s Super League in seven years.
Lining up behind her, for both club and country for the past two years, have been attacking midfielder Danielle van de Donk, centre-back Dominique Bloodworth and goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal, and Miedema recognised the impact having same players form the spine of both teams.
“Obviously it’s really easy, we’ve been playing together for two years, we play as goalie, centre back, number 10 and me and it’s the same at Arsenal so you get to know each other a lot better,” Miedema said after beating the Italians.
“I just need to look at Dominique Bloodworth and I know where’s she’s going to play the ball. It’s the same with DVD [Van de Donk], we just have that connection. It helps me a lot and it helps our team a lot, and I’m happy that we’ve got that.”
Saturday’s strike also increased 22-year-old Miedema’s total as her country’s top scorer to 61 in 80 matches for an international side considered relative minnows until very recently but who in the last three years have surged to the highest reaches of the women’s game.
Since taking charge, initially as interim coach, in 2016, Sarina Weigman has led the Dutch to just their second ever World Cup two years after winning every match, and plaudits for the way they played, in the European Championships.
“I didn’t expect to be in the semi-finals of this World Cup,” said Miedema, whose team have shown they know how to battle.
The Dutch have struggled to express themselves in France but have won two matches in the dying seconds, including their 2-1 last 16 win over Japan, and have scored the majority of their goals in the final 20 minutes.
“We’ve been complaining a lot that we’ve not played the best football but in the end we’re in the semis, we’ve done amazing and we can be really proud,” Miedema added.
Jill Roord has just joined Arsenal, a move which would have further strengthened the Gunners’ Dutch link had Bloodworth and Van Veenendaal not left pre-tournament.
However, both departing players agree with Miedema that the connection between the four Dutch dynamos is hugely important to their success.
“I think it’s very important. I realised on the pitch that Daniela and Viv are in front of me and I know exactly what they’re doing,” said Bloodworth.
“I think we are all in the core of the team so I think it’s important that we’re so fluent in working together.”
The 27-year-old Van de Donk has been crucial for Arsenal, scoring 13 times for the London club in their charge to the title last season and also winning the 2016 FA Women’s Cup.
She scored in the 3-0 Dutch hammering of potential final opponents England in the semi-finals of the Euros — her only goal of that tournament — and has proved to be a player for the big occasion.
Van Veenendaal said the Arsenal quartet “feel each other” when they’re out on the pitch.
“We’re all playing through the middle of the game and we know what we’re doing and we know from each other what we’re doing,” she said. “I think that will definitely help.”