Following their unexpected victory at the 2017 European Championship on home soil, the Netherlands have often been regarded as favourites against any opposition. That didn’t change in the build-up to their Group E opener against New Zealand. And although it was billed as a heavyweight mismatch, what followed was anything but.
A defensive masterclass from the Football Ferns stifled the famously deadly Dutch attack, who struggled to pose any real danger and were unable to break down a stubborn backline – until the dramatic dying moments, when substitute Jill Roord finished from close range. The relief was evident, but Sarina Wiegman and her Orange Lionesses will not want to leave it so late against Cameroon.
Against Canada, Alain Djeumfa’s side successfully held off their opponents’ organised build-up play before Annette Ngo Ndom’s goal was breached by Kadeisha Buchanan. The Indomitable Lionesses looked organised with captain Christine Manie and Estelle Johnson at the heart of the back five, and worked hard to create opportunities even though they couldn’t keep up the high press from the first half.
The scary pace of Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene on the right wing linked well with Ajara Nchout Njoya – she is teammates with Netherlands captain Sherida Spitse at Vålerenga – and Marlyse Ngo Ndombouk. The forwards can be thorns in the flesh of opposing defenders, and in Raissa Feudijo they have a reliable supply line from midfield to attack.
What Cameroon lacked against Canada was clarity in the final third; preferring to sit deep and play on the counter, perhaps they took that approach too far and it looked as if their plan of attack was to pounce on an opposition mistake.
That strategy will need some amending before they face the Dutch. Like New Zealand, teams like to set up defensively against the reigning European Champions. But that, in turn, has forced them to be quick and precise with their passing, relying on pace to be at their best when going forward.
The front three of Shanice van de Sanden, Vivianne Miedema and Lieke Martens will be difficult to stop, and Cameroon’s defensive problems make that task even more challenging. The Dutch have their own issues at the back to deal with, however, and are largely reliant on the fitness of injury-prone centre back Stefanie van der Gragt for experience and solidity.
Following their impressive maiden World Cup appearance four years ago where they lost to 1-0 China at the round of 16 stage, Cameroon have matured and taken huge strides on the international stage, playing in the Women’s African Cup of Nations final in 2016 and finishing third in 2018 (which secured their qualification for this tournament).
Forward Gaëlle Enganamouit, who emerged on the world stage in Canada and scored three goals, is expected to play a starring role this time. She started on the bench for Cameroon’s first match, but Djeumfa might look to switch things up in attack for their second.
Like their opponents, Netherlands are also playing at their second World Cup after their debut in Canada, where they were defeated by Japan. Expectations are now high following European glory in 2017, and they will be expected to reach the quarterfinal stage of this competition.
There wouldn’t be any surprise if the floodgates open and goals are in full flow: star strikers Miedema and Martens have 100 international goals between them and are ranked second and third, respectively, on the all-time Netherlands scoring charts.
With confidence high after snatching victory against New Zealand and their ‘favourites’ status unchanged, the Dutch are expected to secure a second win, taking another step towards progressing to the knockout round.
Hritika has selected Lieke Martens, Vivienne Miedema and Ajara Nchout Njoya for Netherlands vs Cameroon on Twelve’s game, but who would you choose? Download our free app on Android or iOS to take her on!