LYON, France (Reuters) - The future of the Netherlands women’s football team looks bright after the fast-improving ‘Oranje’ added a World Cup runners-up spot to their European title, according to their coach - as long as investment continues in the game.
Playing solid football throughout the tournament, the Netherlands came up short in Sunday’s final, failing to threaten as they went down 2-0 to the United States.
“I think that since 2017 we have done a good job and we would have loved to win this final but our opponents were better today,” Sarina Wiegman told a news conference.
“I’m proud that we are second in the world but we can still improve. We go to the Olympics for the first time in history. There’s high potential in this team. Our average age is under 26, so a lot of players will continue developing.
“The near future looks good, but the far future, we need to improve our facilities for further development.”
The Dutch kept the Americans at bay for an hour, but a 61st-minute VAR-awarded penalty ruined their chances. After Megan Rapinoe converted the spot kick, Rose Lavelle doubled the tally as the U.S. piled on the pressure.
“It’s their fifth World Cup final. That’s the difference between them and us,” centre back Anouk Dekker told reporters. The Netherlands, in contrast, were playing in only their second World Cup after the women’s game gained popularity at home following the team’s victory at the Euro 2017 on home soil.
They will also take part in the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo next year, looking to consolidate their rapid progression.
“I also think in earlier times, women were not accepted in football, and now they’re more accepted, but a little behind, Wiegman added. “When you’re behind, you need to work harder to get it equal. We need to encourage more women to get involved in football.”
Fullback Desiree van Lunteren believes that the national squad will further improve if the players continue playing abroad. All 11 Dutch starters on Sunday play in other European leagues.
“I think if you look where you come from, we did very well. It can only get better and better,” she said. “A lot of girls are playing outside the Netherlands , where the competition is better.
“Everyone is fitter, they’re playing better and if we do that more and more, in four years we can do well again.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Tony Lawrence