The dust has now settled on the Women’s European finals in the Netherlands and I did say I hoped to have some positives to write for this next column. Well it was as seems the norm for us in England a perpetual roller coaster ride. Unbeaten in the group although not as dominant in the last two games as we were against a weakened Scotland side, we scored the goals that won the games and defended well enough to complete the same. In the quarter final against the nemesis of France it was golden boot winner Jodie Taylor who scored the goal to take us through to the semi-final stages. My tip Spain had played some entertaining possession football but lacked that ruthless cutting edge to take them past the quarter final stages losing eventually on penalties.
The whole tournament had shown that it was far more of an equal playing field with a rebuilding German side looking distinctly ordinary as they were dismissed by a resolute Denmark Outfit in the quarters. Denmark facing another surprise package to those that don’t follow the development in other countries in Austria in the other semi- final to England’s. We of course faced the rampant home nation being pushed along by a wave of Orange and definitely looking the form team.
England however had to be confident and buoyant in the knowledge that they had the beating of this team and the experience of Canada in the World Cup with vociferous home support.
Sadly, it turned out that the Dutch team did not need the extra man as we call an extremely bias crowd sometimes. They had done their homework on how to stop our leading goal threat of Taylor cutting out the supply routes. Whilst still being allowed to utilise their own main strengths in wide attacks with purpose and good support play from the other units.
We had looked in the group stage as fit and strong as we had ever been but unfortunately the Dutch were at minimum as fit and strong and were technically tidier on the ball both in possession and in transition.
Our initial plan of attack had been thwarted and we were soaking up pressure without effective counter attacks resulting in a lot of hopeful forward passes. A handful of our players were found out with the pace of the game and speed of play of the opponent’s counter attacking play. We had some chances and a couple pf penalty appeals turned down, but in the end, were deservedly beaten 3-0 by what eventually would be the team crowned Champions of Europe for the first time and kick starting a new era for the women’s game in the Netherlands
For us another learning curve and the need to analyse what it is that can take us over that final hurdle. the improvements are there for all to see but there are some missing ingredients still. We have many of the main ones but maybe need to take risks with a little more spice meaning let loose our more daring players not just Fran Kirby but the hunger and fearlessness of Nikita Paris, give Jordan Nobbs a free role to control the game and now introduce the youngsters who can affect the energy levels and makeup of the team.
I have to agree with one famous or infamous expert when he quoted that it might be good that our players can push heavy weights but they were at times out run and outplayed by a team that does not.
I cannot confirm the first fact but the second is hard to argue with. All in all, though we have to stay positive that we reached a second major tournament semi- final where three of the worlds so call strongest nations did not. We definitely have the players to achieve success and a production line underneath of great talent to feed in, now I guess it’s all about timing and the right decisions. Gotta keep the faith J