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Netherlands ready to surprise

Netherlands coach Maria van Kortenhof says her side will have to upset the odds against Spain to outdo their senior and U19 squads by progressing past the U17 semi-finals on Tuesday.

The Netherlands hope to celebrate again next week
The Netherlands hope to celebrate again next week ©Dominique Lardinois

Dutch female football has come a long way by upsetting the odds and Maria van Kortenhof said her Netherlands team will have to do so again to get past Spain in next Tuesday's UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship semi-finals.

The Netherlands have qualified for the semi-finals for the first time, matching the achievement of their senior team at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009 and, more recently, their 2010 UEFA European Women's U19 Championship side. Both of those squads were pipped by England but the U17s disposed of that nation in the second qualifying round and will hope to repeat the success of their senior side, who knocked out Spain in the EURO play-offs.

However, Van Kortenhof believes Spain are favourites to prevail when they meet at Nyon's Colovray Stadium for a place in the final against holders Germany or the Republic of Ireland. "It is clear we have to battle against two favourites now, with Germany obviously as the overall favourites, but Spain are also favourites, as they were also finalists last year," she told UEFA.com. "We will put out as strong a team as possible against Spain. Then it will be really open, although Spain remain the favourites, based on their past record and on the fact they still have several players who played in last year's final."

After exiting both previous editions unbeaten in the second qualifying round, the Netherlands made it through this time and indeed remain without a defeat in this competition – and according to the coach, keep on improving. "By playing these matches they have gained an enormous amount of experience," Van Kortenhof said. "It all started from our first match, against Italy, when things webt very well for us, and that gave us a lot of confidence. And that is something they took with them into the other matches. It convinced them that if they act like a real team they can beat any opponents."

Van Kortenhof has been involved in the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) national women's team set-up since taking over the U15 team in 2006, and is in no doubt about the progress that has been made. "Women's football has been put on the map more and more, and this is certainly the case in the Netherlands," said Van Kortenhof, once on the coaching staff of the FC Utrecht men's club. "We have put in place a development policy with a goal of moving forward bit by bit. And now we are harvesting the fruits from that.

"We have done our best to increase the number of girls playing football, and after succeeding in that, we also did our best to give those with talent the opportunity to undergo more and better training sessions. In the KNVB we also adjusted the training program to increase fitness, power and explosiveness. Technically and tactically we also have been able to make big steps forward, also thanks to the foundation of the women's Eredivisie a few years ago. And that all means we are now able to qualify for final tournaments in all age sections."