For the third summer in a row, the Netherlands women’s national team will be carrying the expectations of a whole country in delivering a positive result in a major tournament.
The eighth-ranked nation in the FIFA list will be heading to Australia and New Zealand in search of a first ever World Cup success, come next July.
The Leeuwinnen (Lionesses in Dutch) are on the back of a disappointing European Championships last summer, where their title defence was halted in the quarter-finals by France.
That result prompted the Dutch FA to part ways with previous coach Mark Parsons and hand the reins of the team to Andries Jonker.
The 60-year old coach brings plenty of experience to the dressing room having been an assistant manager at the men’s teams of Wolfsburg, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
“I think his personality is very strict and that has helped us to get used to each other really quickly,” defender Dominique Janssen told the Times of Malta.
“Everybody knows what to expect from him and we know what are our responsibilities under him, so I think it has been pretty good so far although we have been with him for a short time.”
Fellow Netherlands colleague Jackie Groenen, who had positive words for the Maltese surroundings during their camp here, said that the team has been enjoying working under the new coach.
“He is very experienced and we are all eager to learn as much as possible from him,” the former Manchester United player said.
“The pieces are falling together and our football is getting better, and that’s very important.”
Prior to last summer’s European Championships in England, the Netherlands had triumphed in the 2017 edition, hosted on home soil, and reached the 2019 World Cup final where they lost to United States.
The US were also their
executioners in the 2021 Olympic Games, losing 4-2 on penalties.
For the third time in four years, the two teams will meet on the big stage again having been drawn in the same World Cup group.
Completing their Group A are Asia’s Vietnam and one between Cameroon and Portugal who will rub shoulders in a play-off game during this window.
Nonetheless, Janssen said they are upbeat about their chances of reaching the 2017 and 2019 heights next summer.
“Well, I think the last tournament was not so good for us, but we have positive feelings ahead of the World Cup,” she said.
“In the last World Cup, we did really well so I imagine there will be some high expectations on us.”
Groenen, on her part, is excited to be part of this build-up journey towards another big tournament and is confident that this training camp can help them continue to gel together.
Both Janssen and Groenen will cross paths in the UEFA Women’s Champions League when Wolfsburg meet Paris Saint-Germain.
Two-time winners of this competition, the German side are on track to complete a major double with the Bundesliga title and European success.
Janssen, 28, is one of their most experienced players with an English WSL title and two Bundesliga triumphs among her silverware.
However, the Champions League trophy is one item missing from her cabinet, at least for now.
“As a player, those are the games that you want to play so I am very excited for the second part of the season,” she said.
On the other hand, Groenen is in her first year at the French giants having left Manchester United in September.
The Dutch midfielder is also chasing her first taste of European success at club level and PSG boast enough talent to make it all way, including her Dutch colleague Lieke Martens.
“At first, I struggled a bit at Paris Saint-Germain due to the language barrier while having to sort out a lot of personal things quickly,” she admitted.
“I was pretty much tired the first month, but now I can say that I am feeling good and really happy to be part of this club which has a lot of insanely talented players.”
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