Netherlands coach Wiegman hopes to topple US and Ellis - GulfToday

Netherlands coach Wiegman hopes to topple US and Ellis

Netherlands-Womens-Players

Netherlands’ head coach Sarina Wiegman (centre) speaks to players during a training session in Lyon on Friday. Agence France-Presse

For just the second time in the history of the women’s World Cup, there will be female coaches on both benches for the final as Sarina Wiegman’s Netherlands take on holders the US, coached by Jill Ellis, on Sunday.

Only nine of the 24 teams present at this year’s tournament were coached by women, but the work done by Wiegman and Ellis has ensured the first final without a man on either bench since 2003.

Ellis, 52, led the US to glory in Canada four years ago and can become the first coach to win back-to-back World Cups in the men’s or women’s game since Vittorio Pozzo with Italy in the 1930s.

Wiegman, meanwhile, is hoping the Netherlands can add the World Cup to the European Championship they won as hosts in 2017.

That would be a remarkable achievement for someone who, like Ellis, has a schooling in soccer in the US to thank for her career trajectory.

Seen as having an uncompromising management style, there can be no arguing with Ellis’s results, with the US winning the 2015 World Cup and now becoming the first team to reach three consecutive finals.

Ellis had various roles in the national team set-up before becoming coach in 2014 and seizing the chance to deliver glory to the country that provided her with an opportunity in the game.

Her team are overwhelming favourites to retain their title, but standing in her way is another woman who learned much in women’s college soccer in the late 1980s.

It is three decades since Wiegman jumped at the chance given to her by Anson Dorrance to go and play at the University of North Carolina.

“The year I spent there changed my life,” she said in an interview.

In 2014 she became an assistant to the Dutch national team before taking over as head coach six months before the Netherlands hosted Euro 2017.

Under her, the Dutch have won 12 games out of 12 at major tournaments. Her team’s fighting spirit is something she says comes from her American experience.

“The American culture is very much about hard work and that is different to our culture,” she said after beating Sweden in the semi-finals.

“If you want to win from a country like that, you need to fight and you need to position yourself and battle it out.”

Wiegman also said “women need to have the guts to make choices and take risks to go for higher positions”.

That attitude has paid off handsomely for her, and it is something of which her players are proud.

“Seeing there are two coaches leading the women’s teams to the final, that’s something incredible and something they can be really proud of,” said defender Dominique Bloodworth.

Netherlands are relishing their underdog status ahead of Sunday’s final, midfielder Danielle van de Donk has said.

Van de Donk said her team will not be overawed by their more celebrated opponents.

“I love being underdogs,” Van de Donk told reporters. “It’s the best role you can be in. I like it.

“I don’t know the English word but I don’t think they (the US) think we’re that good. Underestimate? Yes, that’s it. That is going to be an advantage for us.”

Netherlands struggled to qualify for the World Cup, having progressed through playoffs, but are now playing their second consecutive major final.

Wiegman’s side have shown they can find the extra gear when needed and have won each of their six matches in the tournament, scoring 11 goals and conceding just three in the process.

“We are European champions, not just anyone,” Van de Donk added.

“I’m very proud of the team, I’m very proud of the Netherlands and I think we came this far as well because we have such amazing support all the time.”

Agencies