Two goals in two matches on Sunday night marked the opening of the much-anticipated UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 in the Netherlands.
Amidst so much pomp and splendour, a Netherlands women’s record crowd of 21,732 witnessed as the hosts opened their campaign with a deserved 1-0 victory over Norway.
And it was Shanice van de Sanden’s powerful header in the 65th minute, off a cross from eventual Player of the Match, Lieke Martens, that sealed the win in the presence of Royalty at the Stadion Galgenwaard in Utrecht. With King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima both offering their undiluted support.
“So many fans were already cheering us when we arrived, and it was like playing with 12 players on the pitch,” Martens who recently moved to FC Barcelona said after the match. “I hope that’ll also be the case in the next two matches.”
In the 32nd minute, fans offered their applause in honour of 32-year-old Sylvia Nooij, who passed on a week to the start of the tournament. The defender earned six caps for the Dutch national team.
Two minutes later, there was a standing ovation for Ajax player Abdelhak Nouri, who was recently announced to have suffered severe brain damage during a friendly against Werder Bremen last week.
Meanwhile speaking about the match afterwards, Norway coach Martin Sjögren, hailed their Dutch opponents and even tipped them to progress further in the competition.
“We played a good Dutch side today: they won fair and square. We had major problems in our attacking game, and we ended up very disorganised in defence because of that.
“We created chances, although the Netherlands created more. We would have liked to win the first match but I hope we win the next game and then we still have a good chance on progressing.
“If the Netherlands play like they did today, they have a good chance of going far in the tournament.”
Elsewhere at Doetinchem’s Stadion De Vijverberg, Belgium were treated to a sour Euro debut as Denmark enjoyed victory courtesy of a sixth-minute goal from midfielder Sanne Troelsgaard.