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Netherlands rally to hold Sweden in clash of Euro 2022 contenders

SHEFFIELD (AFP) – The Netherlands’ star striker Vivianne Miedema said the holders had to be proud of their reaction to salvage a 1-1 draw against Sweden to start their Euro 2022 campaign on Saturday.

Sweden were looking to exact revenge for their World Cup semi-final exit to the Dutch three years ago and took a deserved led at half-time through Jonna Andersson’s calm finish.

But the Netherlands hit back to level through Jill Roord’s strike in front a record crowd of 21,342 in Sheffield for a group stage match not involving the host nation at a women’s European Championship.

“If you look at our first 20 minutes we have to be extremely proud to take a point today,” said Miedema.

“Today really showed that we can grow into this tournament.”

A match hyped as one of the biggest clashes of the group stages, got off to a slow start as Sweden suffocated the supply line to Miedema and Lieke Mertens.

The Dutch were also hit by the loss of goalkeeper and captain Sari Van Veenendaal to injury early, but her understudy Daphne Van Domselaar shone on just her second international appearance.

Netherlands’ defender Stefanie van der Gragt vies with Sweden’s striker Lina Hurtig. PHOTO: AFP

At second in the world, Sweden are the highest ranked team in the tournament and showed why in the first 45 minutes.

Kosovare Asllani fired into the side-netting and Barcelona forward Firdolina Rolfo nearly caught out Van Domselaar with a spectacular attempt from halfway that drifted just over.

Sweden’s pressure was finally rewarded on 35 minutes when Asllani’s trickery opened up the Dutch defence and her cross picked out Andersson at the back post to coolly slot home.

Netherlands’ boss Mark Parsons has been criticised for failing to match the standards set by Sarina Wiegman, since she departed her homeland to take charge of England.

However, Parsons made an impact with his half-time team talk as the holders came out with far more aggression to start the second half and got their reward.

Miedema showed just a glimpse of her ability to change the game in an instant as a dummy allowed her to charge down the left wing.

The Arsenal striker’s pass was deflected by a Swedish defender but only into the path of Roord, who fired into the bottom corner on the turn.

“She’s so skilful, we had to double up on her but those very good players you can’t keep quiet for 90 minutes,” said Sweden boss Peter Gerhardsson at the task of stopping Miedema.

Sweden could still have taken all three points but for Van Domselaar’s flying save to turn Rolfo’s powerful shot behind as stoppage time loomed.

In the other game in Group C, Portugal fought back from conceding twice in the first five minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw against Switzerland in Leigh.