Netherlands Women’s U-20 team face probably their biggest challenge when they clash with England in the quarter- finals of the on going FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France on Friday.
The English who have appeared in four out of the nine editions of the tournament have so far demonstrated a form that has made them easily one of the favourites to win this competition after triumphing over Korea DPR, Mexico and Brazil to launch to the summit of Group B.
As they will be confronting a less formidable Dutch team on Friday, they are the odds on favourites to advance to the semi finals .The Netherlands had been quite imperious in their early round robin fixtures, beating group A opponents New Zealand 2-1, and Ghana 4-0, before being literally blown away by a red hot France who handed them four unreplied goals.
Their embarrassing loss to the French really did expose their weaknesses which a clinical English team is likely to punish when they meet. Besides, their inexperience at this stage could count against them. Records show that the Dutch team are only appearing at this tournament for the first time.
On the other hand, the English have been quite a familiar face in this tournament, finishing twice at the group stage at Germany 2010 and Canada 2014, as well as reaching the quarter finals on two occasions at Canada 2002 and Germany 201
For the England girls, therefore, the motivator should be for them to go one above their previous achievements, if not entirely aiming to win the title itself, while the Dutch would be content with making the perfect statement about their performance so far, as well as laying down the marker for the future.
However, the Dutch would like nothing more than to upset their more heralded opponents, and go as far as possible as the unpredictability of the sport always makes room for the underdogs to triumph when it is least envisaged.
As the two teams square up against each other at the Stade de la Rabine, Vannes on Friday, the Netherlands defence which was repeatedly breached by the French the last time must police England’s duo of Russo, Stanway and Hemp who have accounted for nine of the ten goals the English have scored in this tournament so far.
Netherlands however do have a certain Kalma as their main goalscoring threat as she has grabbed three of the six goals the Netherlands have pocketed in this championship.
So, the probability of England riding on Dutch shoulders to the semi- finals of the ongoing U-20 Women’s World Cup is very high indeed, but nothing says that their opponents,even with their underdog status also do not have a fighting chance to make it.