The Netherlands came agonisingly close to World Cup glory in 2019, but with an experienced manager, a world-class squad and perhaps the deadliest striker in Europe, could the Netherlands be on course for Olympic gold in Tokyo?
Led by Sarina Wiegman, who will join England after the tournament, this is the first time a Netherlands side has qualified for an Olympic Games.
In truth, despite squad sizes limited to just 18, Wiegman has selected a similar crop of players to that of 2019, made up of the same core that have long been established internationals.
Former Arsenal keeper Sari van Veenendaal will start in goal, having won the Golden Glove in France two years ago.
Elsewhere, Sherida Spitse has over 160 caps for her country and is likely to line up in midfield alongside Manchester United’s Jackie Groenen and Arsenal’s Daniëlle van de Donk.
The most imposing part of the team, however, lies up front. Lieke Martens stole the show at the 2017 European Championships as she guided her side to victory and has just won the treble with Barcelona this year.
In the Champions League Final against Chelsea, the skilful winger was unplayable at times, helping the Catalonian side romp to a 4-0 victory in Gothenburg.
As if that wasn’t enough, Vivianne Miedema will lead the line through the middle. The Gunners star has been one of the world’s most prolific strikers in the last few years and has recently been linked with a move to Lyon.
In 22 league games last season, Miedema notched 18 goals and also picked up two in the Netherlands’ most recent game against Norway.
It’s a squad that has everything. Defensive stability, midfield maestros and attacking flair. But, can they be considered favourites in Japan?
On the surface, no. The USA are reigning World Cup champions and still ostensibly the team to beat.
Carli Lloyd is still going strong, even after making her 300th appearance recently. Megan Rapinoe is back to full fitness and playing regularly again. And, Rose Lavelle, despite struggling for Manchester City this season, looks an entirely different player whenever she puts on the American shirt.
But, the draw has shaped up nicely for the Dutch. Joining them in Group E is Brazil, China and fellow first-timers Zambia. If, as expected, both the US and the Netherlands win their respective groups, then the two teams avoid one another until the final.
Sweden would likely provide a tough test in the quarter-finals, should they make it out of Group F, yet it certainly appears a favourable draw nonetheless.
And, if they do make it to the final and end up facing the US, then redemption must surely be on the cards.News Now - Sport News