Critics of the Netherlands' defensive play at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ would do well to consider that coach Vera Pauw knows exactly what she is doing, her players having been promised government salaries for their achievement of reaching the semi-finals against the odds.
The 46-year-old took over in 2004 after the Netherlands had fallen well short in UEFA European Women's Championship qualifying and they currently find themselves just one step from the final, despite a FIFA world ranking of 17th. Pauw's cautious tactics have allowed her side to make the most of limited resources, which in turn has laid the foundations for another stage in their development.
'So much potential'
The President of the Dutch National Olympic Committee, Erica Terpstra, was one of the first into the dressing-room in Tampere to congratulate Pauw's charges after their quarter-final feat, and she brought news that the team had been accorded the much sought-after A-status that brings with it state financing. "There is so much potential in the sport," said Terpstra. "The performance in Finland has brought a lot of attention in the Netherlands. This has a big impact on young girls who want to play football or who are already playing. The magnitude of this achievement is enormous."
Teams and individuals must usually prove they are among the best eight in the world to achieve A-status, and Pauw wore a broad grin as she explained the impact state salaries could have on her troops. "The main thing is they will be pro players for the next [year]," she said. "And that's tremendous. That makes us better, we can train more and it opens up lots of possibilities." No disciple of negative football, she "of course" hopes to be able to pursue a more expansive style in the coming years – and thanks to some steadfast defensive work, she may be just get her wish.
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