Two million watch Dutch women’s foootball team tie Sweden in Euro opener
The Netherlands started the European Women's Football Championship with a draw on Saturday night. The defending champion had to settle for a score of 1-1 against Sweden in Sheffield, England. Nearly two million people in the Netherlands tuned in to watch the match.
Jill Roord brought Oranje level in the opening minutes of the second half, but starting keeper Sari van Veenendaal and defender Aniek Nouwen were both sidelined by that point. Van Veenendaal was injured when she clashed hard with defenders Stefanie van der Gragt and Lynn Wilms when the ball came towards them in the air.
The goalkeeper, who was named the best goalkeeper in the world in 2019, tried to continue, but had to be replaced by Daphne van Domselaar halfway through the first half. Nouwen sustained a leg injury in the final phase of the first half. Marisa Olislagers was substituted in for her.
Sweden opened the scoring in the 35th minute. The ball was played through Nouwen’s on the left by Kosovare Asllani, after which Jonna Andersson shot the ball into the goal at the far post.
Although Oranje faced a one goal deficit at halftime, the Netherlands showed resilience in the second half. After preparatory work by Vivianne Miedema, Roord found the ball in front of her feet in the 52nd minute. Her strike on the ball hit the mark.
"It was a bit out of whack and there was a bit of luck, but it went in,” Roord told NOS.
Miedema played a significant role in the rest of the match. The striker found herself open with space to fire off a shot over the bar, and then one later wide of the goal after more than an hour of play. Roord also seemed to have another good chance moments following a deep ball in by Jackie Groenen to Miedema, but Roord was not able to pull off a shot.
Sweden also had their moments in the final phase of the match. Van Domselaar stepped up to save a shot by Fridolina Rolfö.
"I am proud of the team,” Miedema told NOS, praising her team’s ability to come from behind and secure a draw. "Sweden is a good team. The fact that you can still pick up a point here is great in my opinion. Now we have to focus on Wednesday's game against Portugal."
Miedema was not surprised by her team’s fighting spirit. "I think we have shown that in previous tournaments. We can still find that bit of extra energy together. I think we can be very proud after this match. I hope that Sari and Aniek get a good result in hospital. They are two girls who actually always play."
"Unfortunately, I don't have an update yet. Sari and Aniek are not back with the team yet," said national coach Mark Parsons after the draw. "Hopefully we'll know more tomorrow."
"We remained calm after the setbacks in the first half," Parsons said. "We have shown resilience. That was good to see. And as we have often said in recent weeks: we have to grow in the tournament. This is therefore an important step for us. We know that we can play even better football than we have done so far."
The other Group C match saw Portugal and Switzerland play to a 2-2 draw earlier on Saturday. The Netherlands will continue the European Championship in Leigh, England on Wednesday. They will face Portugal in that match.
Oranje’s fighting spirit made Roord "very proud". "We can absolutely build on this. We have to win the next two games and hopefully we will be in first place."
Two million tuned in for the first match
The first match featuring the Oranje Leeuwinnen was seen by almost two million people on Saturday evening, according to viewership monitoring service Stichting Kijkonderzoek (SKO). That total neared the figure from the first match the women payed during the previous European Championship, hosted in the Netherlands in 2017.
During that match, Dutch squad defeated Norway’s national women’s team. The most-viewed Euro 2017 broadcast was a tribute special to the Dutch women, which was watched by 5.4 million people.
The women's match was the most-watched program on television on Saturday evening. For the most part, sports and current affairs programs dominated the top ten. The NOS Journaal news broadcast from 8 p.m. attracted 1.5 million viewers (second place), followed by De Avondetappe (1 million viewers), the NOS Journaal from 6 p.m. (860,000 viewers) and the 7:30 p.m. RTL Nieuws broadcast (840,000 viewers).
Reporting by ANP