The United States Women’s National Team opened the 2023 World Cup with a 3-0 win over Vietnam. Next on the schedule is the Netherlands, runners-up finisher at the 2019 competition and looking to continue the ascendency into a global power after a small step backward. Both sides can potentially assure advancement with a victory, but three points are not entirely necessary at this stage. The match is set for Wellington Regional Stadium, a 34,500-seat venue in New Zealand’s capital.
This is the 11th all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USWNT holding an 8-1-1 advantage. Ranked ninth internationally by FIFA, Netherlands qualified for the World Cup by finishing atop UEFA’s Group C with a 6-0-2 record, sporting a goal differential of +28 but requiring a tense 1-0 victory in the final fixture against Iceland. In the lead-up to the competition, the Oranje (Orange) played a measured set of friendlies that failed to produce convincing results, most notably dropping decisions to Norway, Austria, and Germany. Their tournament run in Group E opened with a 1-0 win against Portugal.
Replacing Mark Parsons, Andries Jonker was appointed to the manager role in August of 2022, signing a contract through the 2025 UEFA Women’s Championship. The 60-year-old has extensive experience across Europe, including a brief interim stint in charge of the Netherlands in 2001. He has compiled a 8-2-0 record during his tenure, looking to travel a “road to redemption.”
Jonker named a 23-player roster for the World Cup with an average age of 25.65 years old. The entirety of the squad competes in Europe, on the books in the Dutch Vrouwen Eredivisie, the English Women’s Super League, the German Frauen-Bundesliga, the Spanish Liga F, the Italian Serie A, and the French Division 1 Féminine. Star striker Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal is absent from the competition due to an extended recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in December.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Daphne van Domselaar (Aston Villa), Lize Kop (Unattached), Jacintha Weimar (Feyenoord)
DEFENDERS (7): Lynn Wilms (VfL Wolfsburg), Stefanie van der Gragt (Unattached), Aniek Nouwen (Chelsea), Merel van Dongen (Atlético Madrid), Caitlin Dijkstra (Twente), Kerstin Casparij (Manchester City), Dominique Janssen (VfL Wolfsburg)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Jill Roord (Manchester City), Sherida Spitse (Ajax), Daniëlle van de Donk (Lyon), Jill Baijings (Bayern Munich), Jackie Groenen (Paris Saint-Germain), Victoria Pelova (Arsenal), Wieke Kaptein (Twente), Damaris Egurrola (Lyon)
As stereotypically expected of the Dutch, Jonker has deployed a 4-3-3 formation with quick engagement, although there is the occasional dalliance with the 3-5-2 set-up as the manager is known to be a bit of a tinkerer and tactical experimenter. However, the possibility of rotation on short rest could alter the strategy and player selection. He is a “firm believer in cohesion,” focused on pressing and “getting forward at the earliest opportunity.” The quick-strike attack pings long balls around the field, as the entire front line exhibits incredible pace, utilizing faster, non-target strikers up top. On the defensive side of the ball, headed clearances can be an issue both from set pieces and the run of play.
As one of the best goalkeepers in the history of women’s soccer, Sari van Veenendaal left her replacement a big pair of gloves to fill and with little warning after suffering an injury in the first match of last summer’s European Championship. Daphne van Domselaar seamlessly transitioned into the number-one role, earning high praise in the run to the quarterfinal after “making several top saves” and earning a spot on The Guardian’s list of the “100 best female footballers in the world.” The 23-year-old recently left Twente following three Eredivisie and three Eredivisie Cup titles and joined Aston Villa. She displays good footwork and is a steady presence in the goalmouth, stopping shots with an almost unbothered ease. Long-distance attempts are a non-starter, as her length and movement allow her to cover the entirety of the net.
Dominique Janssen competes with VfL Wolfsburg in the Frauen-Bundesliga, displaying a compelling mix of size and speed. She is capable in possession and can dispatch pacey attackers entering from the wing. Her typical centre-back partner is Stefanie van der Gragt, an aggressive and physical defender who relishes contact with the opponent. The 30-year-old is dangerous on set pieces as a target for headers, also occasionally making runs forward to hit crosses into the box. The opening match against Portugal featured Sherida Spitse on the back line, a decision validated by her assist on the lone goal. Her distribution and long-shooting abilities are assets carried over from her time as a midfielder.
Former judoken and trained lawyer Jackie Groenen operates in a box-to-box role, using her turns to avoid the opponent and break out into open space, delivering daring crosses. She is aggressive in the tackle and will ghost into passing lanes high up the field. A potential option at the eight is “all-action” Jill Roord, currently on the books at Manchester City. A more attacking option, the 26-year-old midfielder from Oldenzaal looks to break out on the counter and can also line up in a winger role. Versatile teenager Esmee Brugts made her senior international debut in 2022 and quickly became a key player, scoring the deciding goal against Iceland that delivered the Netherlands to the World Cup. Capable of lining up at every position except goalkeeper, she shows “creativity and versatility in the final third,” receiving praise for her footwork, one-versus-one defending, crossing, and ability to operate in tight areas.
At times a winger and others a central-lying player, Daniëlle van de Donk is a shifty and creative presence who harries opponents, forcing turnovers in advantageous areas. Her fiery nature and quick-strike scoring ability renders her as the most electric player on the field, a focal point of the action. Victoria Pelova, who joined Arsenal in January and is cited as one of the “brightest hopes” in Dutch football, occupies the dextral position and brings “dynamism and energy” to the squad. Total Football Analysis praises her ability to link up with teammates and press the opponent, with unselfish off-ball-movement and defensive work allowing her to be the perfect complement to the squad.
Leading the formation is Lineth Beerensteyn of Juventus, described as having “a fiery pace that has left many opponents in fear.” In the last Serie A season, she contributed 14 goals and three assists from a wide position. The 26-year-old forward uses her deft touch to quickly corral the ball and dart out of pressure, popping up all over the field to receive passes and maintaining possession. Her distribution is similarly excellent, as her speed discombobulates opposing back lines and opens up space for easy layoffs to teammates. Adding firepower to the front line is the 2017 UEFA Women’s Player of the Year and Best FIFA Women’s Player, Lieke Martens, displaying “pace and [an] eye for goal.” The Paris Saint-Germain attacker is described as an “expert dribbler, superb reader of the game, and able to dictate the rhythm of play,” outpacing the back line with speed and technique before scoring in a variety of ways.
Despite not starting the first match, Kerstin Casparij of Manchester City could perhaps feature as a “modern, quick right wing-back.” The 22-year-old from the city of Alphen aan den Rijn likes to “drive forward” and overlap the winger on the outside, taking on a more attacking role when wearing orange instead of blue. There’s also Florida-born Damaris Egurrola, who originally represented Spain before switching to the Netherlands in March of 2022 due to the alleged fallout from the ongoing friction involving La Roja manager Jorge Vilda. The Lyon midfielder hasn’t looked back, earning double-digit caps while advancing possession with pinpoint accuracy and establishing herself as a weapon on set pieces.
After defeating Vietnam, the second match of the World Cup should present a greater challenge to the USWNT, albeit with the benefit of one more day of rest than the opponent. There is little room for error on the big stage, although a setback during the group stage is preferable to the knockout rounds. The Netherlands program has regressed since the peak era of 2017-2019, but the prospect of challenging the reigning champion should yield a true battle.
The match is scheduled for Wednesday, July 26th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include FOX, Universo, Telemundo, Peacock, and FUBO TV (free trial).