The Netherlands' incredible UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ ride is over and their players are coming to terms with the pain of defeat four minutes from the end of their semi-final against England and reflecting on the pride of their achievement on their major tournament debut.
Vera Pauw's side, who beat Ukraine and Denmark in the group stage and ousted France on penalties in the quarter-finals, were close to another shoot-out in Tampere on Sunday night when England's Jill Scott headed in a corner, the Netherlands having taken only three minutes to wipe out a previous deficit in the second half. Annemieke Kiesel-Griffioen, who marshalled the Netherlands midfield superbly in Finland, knew how near she came to her second major European final of the summer having helped German club FCR 2001 Duisburg win the UEFA Women's Cup in May.
"It's a mixture of great, great disappointment because we were so close, and on the other hand we can be proud of what we did today and during the tournament," the 29-year-old told uefa.com. "We can be really proud and in a couple of days the pride will win over the disappointment. But the disappointment is big now. We were really, really close and we know it."
Kiesel-Griffioen did concede that England are worthy finalists. "They are a good team, a really good team," she said. "We knew we had to stay tight in defence and I think we did well on that point. We did really well to score after going 1-0 down and we were really trying to get through extra time. We are really unlucky we didn't make it because it was four minutes from the end."
Pauw said her team, now awarded government salaries for the next two years, had "become different as sportspeople and matured" in this campaign. Kiesel-Griffioen is determined that there will be more chances for the Netherlands at this level, starting with 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying, when they are in the same group as Monday's semi-finalists Norway, visiting them for their first match on 24 October. "I think as a team we did a really good job in this tournament," she said. "I think the Oranje are known now and I really hope this was not a one-off, that we can improve and do well in World Cup qualification, that's the next thing to do."
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