Netherlands star striker Vivianne Miedema said the starters must be proud of their reaction to salvage a 1-1 draw with Sweden to start their Euro 2022 campaign on Saturday.
Sweden were looking for revenge for their World Cup semi-final elimination against the Netherlands three years ago and took a deserved half-time lead thanks to the calm arrival of Jonna Andersson.
But the Netherlands returned to level thanks to Jill Roord’s strike in front of a record crowd of 21,342 in Sheffield for a group stage match not involving the host nation at a European Women’s Championship.
“If you look at our first 20 minutes, we must be extremely proud to take a point today,” Miedema said.
“Today really showed that we can grow in this tournament.”
A match considered one of the biggest clashes of the group stage, got off to a slow start as Sweden stifled the supply line of Miedema and Lieke Mertens.
The Dutch were also hurt by the loss of goalkeeper and captain Sari Van Veenendaal to injury early on, but understudy Daphne Van Domselaar only shone on her second international appearance.
Second in the world, Sweden are the highest ranked team in the tournament and showed why in the first 45 minutes.
Kosovare Asllani fired into the side netting and Barcelona striker Firdolina Rolfo nearly caught Van Domselaar with a spectacular mid-range attempt that skidded just above.
Sweden’s pressure was finally rewarded in the 35th minute when Asllani’s trickery opened up the Dutch defense and his cross picked Andersson at the far post to head home quietly.
– Magic of Miedema –
Netherlands boss Mark Parsons has been criticized for failing to live up to the standards set by Sarina Wiegman, since leaving her native country to take charge of England.
However, Parsons made an impact with his half-time team talk as the starters came out much more aggressively to start the second half and claim their reward.
Miedema showed just a glimpse of his ability to change the game in an instant as a dummy allowed him to charge down the left wing.
The Arsenal striker’s pass was deflected by a Swedish defender but only in the path of Roord, who shot into the corner corner.
“She’s so skilful, we had to overtake her, but these very good players can’t keep quiet for 90 minutes,” Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson said when stopping Miedema.
Sweden could still have taken all three points had it not been for Van Domselaar’s mid-air save to fend off Rolfo’s powerful shot as stoppage time approached.
In the other Group C match, Portugal fought back after conceding two goals in the opening five minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw against Switzerland in Leigh.
Sweden and the Netherlands remain heavy favorites for the round of 16 but the Swiss looked set to give themselves a chance with a blistering start as Coumba Sow fired in a fine strike before Rahel Kiwic headed in on a free kick.
Portugal wouldn’t even have qualified had it not been for Russia’s expulsion due to the invasion of Ukraine.
But they proved they weren’t just in England to make up the numbers by scoring twice in half seven seconds to take a point.
Diana Gomes sent the ball in on the hour mark and Jessica Silva delivered a deft touch into Tatiana Pinto’s cross to equalise.
“This is Portugal: a Portugal with a soul, a fighting spirit,” Silva said.
“The bravery shown was fantastic but unfortunately we couldn’t score more. We have to be happy with what we delivered, reacting well with an incredible second half.”