1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Sweden, Netherlands' fans steal show in Euro 2022 draw

Dave Braneck Sheffield
July 11, 2022

Two tournament favorites locked horns in their group stage opener on Saturday. Neither the Netherlands nor Sweden looked like potential champions but another record crowd caught the eye.

Jill Roord (left) celebrates with after scoring for the Netherlands against Sweden
Jill Roord (left) was an influential presence in the middle of the park for the NetherlandsImage: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP

For long stretches, anyone seeking entertainment at the Netherlands' opening clash with Sweden would have been better off looking at the stands than the pitch.

Prior to the match, Dutch fan Peter Houwer told DW that the vibrant fan festivities would turn heads at Euro 2022. "[Local fans] have never seen this. Come to the fanzone, walk to the stadium with us and you'll know. It's a big party, and the Swedish are coming too," he said.

A Euros non-host group match record attendance of 21,342 transformed Sheffield's Bramall Lane into a swirling sea of neon yellow and orange. As two of the tournament's most vibrant sets of fans brought the atmosphere, two of the tournament's favorites struggled to hold up their end of the bargain.

Sweden's stifling gameplan

Though Olympic silver medalists Sweden's play wasn’t always pretty, it was more effective, and they were the first to put their stamp on the game. Kosovare Asllani showed a flash of satin skill and juked around Aniek Nouwen. Her low pass had Sweden's fans celebrating before an onrushing Jonna Andersson slotted home.

A left back notching just her third international goal against the tournament holders summarizes what Sweden do best: eking everything possible out of the entirety of their squad. They have supremely talented players rather than singular stars.

"[Teamwork] is a big deal," said Sweden's veteran keeper Hedvig Lindahl to DW after the match. "We have a lot of discussions about the relationships between each other and how we can best help each other and utilize every different angle of vision that we have out there. I think it's one of our strengths, definitely."

And while the first half in particular was a disjointed affair, Sweden were much better equipped to excel than the Dutch. Attackers Asllane and Fridolina Rolfö spent much of the opening period rushing back to hamper the Netherlands attack and pickpocket unexpecting midfielders.

After scoring, Sweden found their feet and did a much better job of stringing together passes and putting the Netherlands' defense to the test.

Injuries and chemistry off-kilter

While Sweden's biggest names spent the first half tracking back, Dutch stars spent their time fending off frustration. Vivianne Miedema could be spotted performing an extremely rare gesture throughout the first half: raising her hand apologetically to teammates after dribbling into defenders or misplaying a pass.

While the Netherlands seemed off their game from the opening whistle, things were quickly compounded by poor luck. Both captain and veteran keeper Sari Van Veenendaal and Chelsea defender Aniek Nouwen were forced out early with injury, leaving the Netherlands without two vital bricks in their defensive foundation before the half.

Netherland's coach Mark Parsons took the halftime break to let his squad collect themselves, and as he said after the game, confer with Miedema to make some adjustments. The Netherlands emerged from the locker room looking at least vaguely reminiscent of their 2017-winning selves and had significantly more energy in their attack.

When a cleared Miedema 52nd minute pass popped to a lone Jill Roord hovering at the top of Sweden's box, Roord swept the ball into the net and leveled things.

"The second half was much better. We dared to play. But there's much more to come there when we use our attacking abilities. When Viv and others got the ball, Sweden just wanted to drop back," Netherlands coach Mark Parsons said after the match.

Leveling the scoreline opened things up and injected urgency into the match, and the Dutch attacking core got much more involved. Still, golden chances were largely missing. Sweden and the Netherlands pushed, and given the boisterous crowd driving both on sides a late winner began to feel inevitable yet never materialized.

Knowing where you stand

Before the match, Sweden’s Magdelena Eriksson said opening the Euros against the Netherlands would be a useful measuring stick. "We know the whole tournament isn’t judged on one single game. But it's nice to get an idea of where we stand, where they stand, and what we will need to improve during the tournament," she said.

Sweden will leave Sheffield knowing they’re well-organized enough to foil some of the best attackers of the world, and that they’re crafty enough in their teamwork to punish them at the back as well. The Netherlands know that they can make adjustments and have the mentality to overcome major mid-match setbacks.

Both sides will need to make adjustments if they want to resemble true tournament favorites instead of just fellow members of the pack.

As for the supporters, the Swedes and Dutch have put in opening salvos in the battle for Euro 2022’s best support. Both groups of fans seemed quite pleased with the result. As Peter told DW, “The fans are only partying of course. If we win, we party. If we lose we party as well.”

Though he didn't mentioned what happens when the Netherlands draw, judging by the loud singing reverberating around Bramall Lane long after the final whistle, it probably involves partying.