This summer, the Netherlands hosted the 2017 Women’s European Championship (aka the EUROs).  If you are a women’s football fan, you probably already know this.  If you are a casual sports fan in the U.S., I hope it at least caught your attention, in a headline or a random tweet. And if you are just super hardcore, perhaps you had a Tinder date and discussed the merits of a 3-5-2 in the modern game or how much Kim Little was missed in the tournament. Whatever! Bottom line is, it came and went and IT. WAS. AWESOME!  

Although this was the story of the summer, I wanted to dedicate a blog post to the EUROs because I felt as though it was an important tournament.  And here’s five reasons why: 


The hosts won it!  

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And here, President Trump, is an appropriate use of the word “Epic.” 

The Netherlands played very well six games straight and unexpectedly won the whole damn thing.   The impact and ramifications of those six games will no doubt be felt in the Netherlands for a long time.   

Maybe it will get more girls to play football.  Perhaps for those “first time fans” to women’s football, it will change their perceptions of the game and in turn the societal view of women. No easy task, check out ridiculous Twitter comments from time to time, and this recent funny rebuttal from @arseblognews.    

Winning the Euros might also improve the domestic league in the Netherlands and give the opportunity for more players to follow their dream of being a professional footballer.   

Side note:  Everyone that knows me knows that I am unashamed about my love and loyalty to University of North Carolina.  What does this have to do with the Netherlands winning the EUROs you ask?  Well, Sarina Weigman, the coach of Netherlands went to UNC, played for legendary coach Anson Dorrance and was teammates with U.S. Soccer icons Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly!  No wonder she knows how to win!  Just kidding (Kind of!).   

I was also very proud of and happy for my stud Arsenal teammates – Sari van Veenendaal, Danielle van de Donk, Dominique Janssen, and my new teammate, the young superstar Vivianne Miedema.  What an achievement, and one that the country will not soon forget! 


Spain are coming  

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Although knocked out in the quarterfinals, Spain were phenomenal in possession and technical proficiency.  They lacked an out and out goal scorer, and I thought really could have benefitted with Vero Boquete in the squad.  Although Vero is not exactly that, she has the ability to score big goals and unlock very good teams.  

They missed this final piece, and they almost reminded me of Japan in the years when they would hold the vast majority of possession, but lacked the killer instinct. Japan found it, and so will Spain.  The recent success of the Spanish youth teams demonstrates an early advantage in technical ability.  If the Federation continues to nurture the women’s side, and the clubs such as Barcelona Women and others continue to provide year round training platforms, the rest of the world should be very nervous.    


Germany’s early exit and the broadening of the pool of potential winners

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I don’t like to say I told you so (I’m lying), but I called Germany not winning it from the start.  It just felt to me like the identity and vision of former manager Silvia Neid was so strong, and so distinct, that new manager Steffi Jones would need longer than she had to put her stamp on the team.  Losing your coach, in addition to a strong core of veteran players (I’m a big fan of recently retired German international Melanie Behringer) is a lot to overcome in six months, even if you are Germany and have an impressive system of youth development. This allowed teams such an Denmark, Austria, and of course the Netherlands, to get some love as the talk of the women’s football world. 


England’s underdog story is over 

Although a very disappointing result in the semifinals, 3-0 to eventual winner Netherlands, the English side have a lot to be happy about.  The strength of Mark Sampson’s squad ran deep, and was a lot stronger than the strength of his shirt seams. YIKES!  

Their result, along with their strong performances this year including the She Believes Cup, allowed them to recently creep up to THEIR ALL TIME HIGHEST FIFA RANKING of 3rd.  The World Cup bronze medalists are right there knocking at the door of the world’s best.   

I have always got the feeling, whether right or wrong, that England have played on the role of underdog. It is a personal feeling of mine that in order to be truly great, to be TRULY ELITE, great teams need to maintain a winning attitude, an attitude that they deserve to win, and anything else is a severe disappointment.  In other words, toss the underdog mentality!  

It is a crutch that allows teams to sleep at night if things go bad. And I felt as though this England had finally taken off that security blanket.   I recognized the intense agony and disappointment in the Lionesses as they came back from the Netherlands.  They were absolutely gutted.  No one wants to see that.  However, I thought it was a step in the right direction to feel the palpable disappointment in the team, the media, and the English fans. Because they had a winning mentality. I see it from Jordan Nobbs and my teammates at Arsenal every day.   And that is something that should be celebrated if you are a supporter of the Lionesses. 


My personal experience working with Channel 4 was very rewarding

If you did not know, I worked as a pundit with Channel 4 during the group games of the tournament.   Let’s be clear, I have had limited experience in broadcast media, so it was a bit unnerving for me to be on live television working with some seasoned veterans such as Clare Balding and Arsenal legend Ian Wright, amongst others.  

I learned the hard way that there are some American soccer phrases that sound incredibly cheesy to English viewers, such as an “upper 90”, but at the end of the day I was reaffirmed that authenticity always prevails!  It was also interesting for me to be at a big tournament in a role other than that as a player.  As a player, you are in a very intense bubble at major tournaments and this is necessary in order to perform at your best.  Observing the tournament in a more holistic manner gave me a lot of perspective in how far women’s football has come.  I truly loved my experience, and although nothing beats playing for your country, it excited me that for the rest of my life I can enjoy this game immensely in other capacities.   

Thanks for reading, and check back soon on how preseason is going with Arsenal!   
 

HAO