Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema admitted her team have had to cope with the pressure of an expectant support back home on their run to the semi-finals of the women’s World Cup.
Miedema recently became the all-time top scorer for a Dutch side who have made it to the last four of the World Cup for the first time, just two years after being crowned European champions.
It has been a sudden rise to the international elite for a team who are appearing at just their second World Cup and will face Sweden in the semi-finals in Lyon on Wednesday.
“At the Euros no-one expected a lot from us and once we started winning our country stood behind us and we got in that flow,” Miedema, 22, said at a press conference on Monday in Lyon.
“When we came here, in Holland everyone said we would be world champions and that gave us a lot of pressure.
“The first couple of games we didn’t always play the best football, but we still got nine points in the group and we’re still in the semi-finals now so I think you can say we are back in that flow.”
The ‘Oranje’ made it to the semi-finals thanks to a 2-0 win over Italy in the last eight, with Arsenal striker Miedema among the scorers.
Prior to that they eliminated 2011 world champions Japan in the last 16 as Lieke Martens scored twice. The Barcelona winger is a doubt for this game with a toe injury.
“Lieke has had this injury for quite a long time but she had more problems with her toe after the Japan game. She managed to play against Italy and the toe did not get any worse, so let’s hope she will be able to play,” said coach Sarina Wiegman.
Sweden ended a 24-year wait for a major tournament win over Germany in Saturday’s quarter-final, and they have a score to settle against the Netherlands.
The Scandinavian side were knocked out of Euro 2017 by the Dutch, losing 2-0 in the quarter-finals with goals from Martens and Miedema.
Coach Peter Gerhardsson said he had long been convinced his side could go a long way at the World Cup.
“We knew we could get this far. I said many times that we had every opportunity,” he said.
“We played really well in friendly matches, so it was in there that I started to believe we could be sitting here in this position,” he added, citing the 2-0 win away to England last November and an earlier 0-0 draw with France.
The 2003 World Cup runners-up will go into Wednesday’s match without forward Fridolina Rolfo, who is suspended after being booked in the 2-1 victory against Germany.