Four years ago a stubborn Netherlands side made the UEFA Women's EURO 2009 semi-finals on their major tournament debut – but now Daphne Koster says they are ready to succeed with football in the classic Dutch style.
Koster, with 16 years' experience and over 110 international caps, will again captain the Netherlands as they take on Iceland, Norway and holders Germany in Group B from 11 July in Sweden. The defender, 32, spoke to UEFA.com about the team's post-2009 profile, their expansive new game under coach Roger Reijners, her own role promoting Dutch women's football and a dream move to AFC Ajax.
UEFA.com: How are preparations going for the tournament?
Daphne Koster: We train a lot with the national team. All the internationals who play in the Netherlands train every week on a Monday and Tuesday with the federation, and we play a lot of games. So that's the preparation.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your three group opponents?
Koster: It's a tough group. I think all our opponents are really tough, but they all play the same game, tough games. And Germany are the favourites, we know that. They play a physical game. We play a different game, a positional game, and I think, with that, we will certainly go through.
UEFA.com: This is your first full campaign under coach Roger Reijners; what has changed?
Koster: Quite a lot has changed. In 2009 we played very defensive football – defend, defend, and then get out on the counter. We had to do that because we wanted to get good results, and that was the quickest way to get them.
But we wanted more as a team, and the route we have chosen with Roger Reijners is especially about football, playing the position game, really assuming your own strengths and how good you are; and from that thought we play football. When people come to watch us they see something different. They see more the Dutch school.
UEFA.com: Four years ago you reached the semi-finals at the first attempt. How much difference has that made to women's football in the Netherlands?
Koster: Very big, really very big. Because we reached the semi-finals, a world has opened up to us in the Netherlands. In the Netherlands it's the case that you are only seen if you have success or win a European Championship, a World Cup or Olympics. And we did that, everybody saw that success, you really had to be living in a cave not to hear anything about us. We can still see it, but now we have to take the next step. We have to put together another good result.
UEFA.com: Are expectations different now?
Koster: Yes. And I think not only from us, but from the other teams. The other teams look at us [because] we did well in 2009. During the preparation we played matches against the world's top teams and didn't do badly. So I think they are secretly looking at us: "Those Dutch, we need to take them into account. We shouldn't underestimate them." Maybe we had the advantage in 2009 that some teams thought: "Oh, the Netherlands, we will get them easily." We made good use of that.
UEFA.com: You yourself have a new role in Dutch football, a promotional role. Could you speak about that?
Koster: Yes, that's right. What I do, I actually tell a story about how when I started to play football as a little girl, football was a boys' sport, that's how it was seen, and girls couldn't play football. And it has grown to where we are now. And everything that has happened in recent times, with the chances for the future, I think it will be the biggest sport in the Netherlands and it will be widely respected. It's a beautiful story to tell, a nice story, and I actually do that everywhere – at clubs, sponsors, wherever people give me the chance to tell that story.
UEFA.com: You have also just finished your first season at Ajax.
Koster: For me, it was always a dream to play for Ajax. A very big club and a big name in the world. It's just fantastic that I can play in that shirt. But you can also see that Ajax are a big club and that attracts a lot of attention. That's very positive for us, for women's football. It gives another boost and other possibilities to go and grow further. It's just fantastic that I can be part of it, that I can play in that shirt. I used to dream about it, so these are beautiful dreams becoming reality.
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