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Dutch coach more proud than surprised

China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-01 09:14
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Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl punches away a shot during Saturday's 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Germany in their Women's World Cup quarterfinal match in Rennes, France. Sweden will face the Netherlands in the semifinals on Wednesday. BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

VALENCIENNES, France-Netherlands head coach Sarina Wiegman said she felt more proud than surprised about her team's improvement over the past four years as it advanced to the Women's World Cup semifinals with a 2-0 win over Italy on Saturday.

The Dutch side debuted on the World Cup stage four years ago and secured the final four spot in just its second appearance.

"I'm not really surprised, but I'm very proud of the team," Wiegman said.

"I think we have very good players but things have changed so much since the European Championships (in 2017), we've gained a lot of confidence but we also needed to improve our game to perform to the level we're at in this World Cup.

"We've had some moments where we were lucky, but there's such a great team spirit and there's such a great belief that we can perform well. The word proud is more suitable than the word surprised, "added the 49-year-old.

The Netherlands will now take on Sweden in Lyon on Wednesday.

"Winning helps ... especially mentally. We have to set the new goal and work on it," Wiegman said.

Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema, who was named player of the match, said she didn't expect to be in the semifinals of this World Cup.

"We've been complaining that we're not playing the best football but in the end we're in the semis. We've done amazing things and we can be really proud. Now we need to just focus on the next game," she said.

'Bitter' exit

Meanwhile, Germany was left "bitterly disappointed" after Stina Blackstenius' winner knocked it out of the tournament and sent Sweden into the last four in Rennes on Saturday.

The Swedes last claimed a tournament win over Germany at the 1995 World Cup, but here they came from behind to triumph in an enthralling match played in ferocious heat.

Lina Magull gave Germany the lead, but the Swedes ran the German back line ragged for much of the match.

Sofia Jakobsson got their equalizer before the front three of Fridolina Rolfo, Jakobsson and Blackstenius combined for the winning goal just after the break.

"We are bitterly disappointed. We started well, but we just couldn't deal with their long-ball game," said Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult.

Once the dominant force in European women's soccer, two-time world champion Germany has now failed to reach the semifinals in two of its past three World Cup tournaments.

Defeat also robbed it of the chance to defend its gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.

Germany won the title at the Rio Olympics three years ago, beating Sweden in the final, but still needed to finish among the top three European teams at this World Cup to book a ticket to Tokyo.

Sweden will join the Netherlands and England at the Games instead.

"The loss hurts, but we are in a process. We will grow from this experience," said coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, adding that the setback might spark a generational shift for the national team.

"I know that some players are considering ending their international careers," said the coach.

"We have young players coming up and we will use the next two years before the European Championships to improve," added Voss-Tecklenburg.


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