ENSCHEDE, Netherlands: A clash of titans and a battle of tournament sensations are on Thursday’s (Friday in Manila) menu at the women’s Euro in the Netherlands as the hosts take on England and Denmark face Austria in the semifinals.
At the sold-out Twente stadium in Enschede with more than 27,000 people expected, the Lionesses will play against the Oranjes in a clash of two teams with a perfect record at the tournament.
“It’s the same as all our matches because we’re really focused on going from one match to another match,” said Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman, adding her team was “more confident than before.”
“Again tomorrow we would like to show everybody who we are, fight in the match and play pretty football if possible.”
“We have to be well organized first, and we have to cooperate as a team, and as we do, when we keep possession of the ball, then we can start attacking.”
Sweeper Stephanie van der Gragt is in doubt for the hosts after picking up an injury in the Netherlands’ 2-0 quarterfinals win over Sweden.
England will miss keeper Karen Bardsley with a broken leg she sustained in the 1-0 quarter-final win against France, and midfielder Jill Scott, suspended after two bookings.
Scott scored the decider when the two teams met in the 2009 semifinals, handing England a 2-1 win after extra time, and coach Mark Sampson labeled her “a world-class player.”
“But if there’s any team who are going to lose Jill Scott and feel completely confident in who is going to come in, it will be this English team,” he said.
Totally new game
Arsenal players will mingle on and off the pitch, with Dutch keeper Sari van Veenendaal, Dominique Janssen, Danielle van de Donk and recent signing Vivianne Miedema facing England’s Jordan Nobbs, Jodie Taylor, Fara Williams and Alex Scott.
“It will be tough playing against them but I think we definitely know their strengths and their weaknesses and hopefully can capitalize on that,” said Nobbs.
“We respect them as players and they respect us. Definitely going into that match will be exciting and hopefully there will just be respectful handshakes at the end.”
The tournament’s leading scorer, Taylor will be a cause for concern for the hosts, having scored five goals in just three games after sitting out the last group game against Portugal.
“We’re aware of her qualities. We have to defend well as a team and we have to be well organized to make sure that she’s not going to have enough space to score a goal,” said Wiegman.
In Thursday’s first match, newcomers Austria will face five-time semifinalists Denmark in Breda less than a month after beating them 4-2 in a friendly.
“Denmark weren’t in the same shape in that pre-tournament friendly as they are now,” said Austria coach Dominik Thalhammer.
“That win gives us the confidence but it’s a totally new game tomorrow,” added the coach who will miss forward Lisa Makas, out with torn cruciate ligaments since Austria’s quarter-final win on penalties against Spain after a goalless draw.
Denmark coach Nils Nielsen, whose team beat eight-time champions Germany 2-1 in the quarter-final after a second-half comeback, said outstanding defense was key against Austria.
“We didn’t do that in the pre-tournament friendly. We can’t give away so many chances.”
“If you want to break down a team that defends so well like Austria does then you really need to play fast and take every chance you get.”
But he added he had confidence in his team: “My players are problem-solvers and they can do it.”