WEURO 2022 preview: What could be expected tactically from the Netherlands vs Sweden clash? – tactical analysis
England and Norway started their UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 successfully after wins over Austria and Northern Ireland, while the rest of the teams are yet to play their first games in the group stage.
One of the most anticipated matches is the meeting between the Netherlands and Sweden on Saturday evening. This will be a huge test for both teams as they are among the favourites to win the tournament.
The Netherlands, who are looking to defend their title, have a star-studded squad with players from leading European teams like Olympique Lyonnais, PSG, Arsenal and Chelsea. The same goes for Sweden, who are undefeated in their last 12 games, underlining that their current form is better than that of their opposition.
The two nations are in Group C, where they will be fighting with Portugal and Switzerland to proceed to the knockout stages. Although it is the first one, this game might be decisive for their future in the competition should they proceed, so any mistakes from both teams might cost them a lot.
With experienced players like Vivianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk, the Netherlands can easily achieve dominance in possession, although Sweden’s collective effort might be just enough to stop them from making an impact.
Who might be the key players for both teams?
Lynn Wilms will be crucial for the Netherlands in the right-back position after having a successful season at club level with Wolfsburg. The 21-year-old is a constant threat in attacking positions due to her regular movement up and down the flank.
She is expected to be the main source of crossing attempts which aim to create opportunities for her team. While the left-back Dominique Janssen is much more defence-oriented and rarely steps out of position, Wilms is a player that Sweden should mark tightly and the left-back Jonna Andersson should increase her defensive awareness and split her responsibilities well, as her movement to the advanced areas could expose the team out of possession.
If the Chelsea player manages to keep Wilms away from supplying the attack with crosses, her team have a much higher chance to counteract the Netherlands successfully. That’s due to the strong partnership between Sweden’s centre-backs. Magdalena Eriksson and Amanda Ilestedt complement each other’s movement which gives the team confidence both in and out of possession.
Despite Eriksson being a ball-playing defender, she doesn’t neglect her defensive responsibilities and is active both on and off the ball. One of her best qualities is her ability to recover the ball as she manages to judge the situations correctly and use her positioning and movement to gain back possession. She also has an active presence in the air, which often helps the team in the opposition’s penalty area. Her partner in crime Ilestedt has similar strengths which form a solid base for the team to be confident and attack.
The Netherlands need to be very creative in the final third if they want to break through the opposition’s defence.
What do the Netherlands need to consider?
Sweden are usually very highly positioned with the whole defensive line moving closer to the central line (occasionally even past it), trying to control the game in the opposition half and create a high number of chances in front of the goal.
They try to stay pretty compact and use strong positioning and a lot of internal movement to progress the ball and expose the opposition. That’s why the Netherlands’ marking strategy needs to be adjusted to that in order to block the passing lanes and disallow them from sending the ball to the final third, which they do frequently.
It is still unclear which formation would manager Peter Gerhardsson chooses, but it is most likely that he will stick to a back-four scheme, although his team have played in a 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 in a few of their latest games.
This allows them to perform positional interchanges without risking getting exposed defensively. The full-backs’ high and wide movements allow the wingers to cut inside which should be considered by the Netherlands as their runs often allow them to exploit spaces and create goalscoring opportunities. A low block should be considered since Sweden like to overload the final third with players and their opponents need to limit the spaces between the lines in order to stop them.
How can the Netherlands expose Sweden?
The secret to both the Netherlands’ defensive and offensive success might be the eventual low block. While it will provide more security against Sweden’s overcommitted attack it can give them the opportunity to create attacking chances through their counter-attacking movement.
The team are no strangers to trying to expose their opponents through counter-attacking actions and it is expected that they will try to expose Sweden’s highly positioned defence in the same way. The Netherlands’ efficiency in front of the goal is much higher than the opposition’s with almost half of their shots being on target. That means that Sweden need to increase their defensive awareness to try and stop their attacks early on as players like Danielle van de Donk and Vivianne Miedema are experienced in breaking the lines and exploiting spaces as well as shooting from quality positions.
Despite being well-organised, Sweden do have some defensive flaws that their opponents could expose. The high number of fouls committed (9 on average per game) puts them at an increased risk of allowing the opposition more set-pieces opportunities, which the Netherlands have proved to be good at, especially thanks to their aerial presence.
The Netherlands’, though, are most likely to score from open play thanks to the proficiency of their attacking players and the team’s ability to send balls behind the defence, which is why Sweden need to consider placing their defensive line slightly lower than usual.
As our analysis shows, the meeting between two of the tournament’s favourites can offer a lot tactically and is expected to be entertaining thanks to their attacking strategies. Both teams have an equal chance to grab the three points and, in the end, it will only depend on who takes better advantage of the opposition’s mistakes.