Women's Euros: England dreaming as Anita Asante hails 'Bergkamp-esque' Dutch star

By Sports Desk July 04, 2022

Anita Asante featured at three Women's European Championships, and big-stage experience makes the former England defender a shrewd judge of the teams that will go for glory this month.

The Euro 2022 finals kick off when England face Austria at a sold-out Old Trafford on Wednesday, with the tournament climaxing in the July 31 final at Wembley.

Spain start as many people's favourites, but defending champions the Netherlands, hosts England, France, Germany and Sweden are also firmly in the frame.

Stats Perform sat down with 71-cap star Asante ahead of the tournament getting under way.

The 37-year-old spoke of how a Dutch striker reminds her of the great Dennis Bergkamp, her hopes for England and belief in the Lionesses' Dutch boss Sarina Wiegman, and why Spain are such an exciting proposition.
 

Asante Asanta's verdict on...

... why England are serious trophy contenders this time

"I think England have a really great chance. We have a fantastic squad. They've got to three semi-finals consecutively [2015 and 2019 World Cup, Euro 2017]. So this is an England team that is competing at the highest level. Of course, they're going to have to challenge the Dutch, the French, the Spanish, who are also an ascending force, Germany with a kind of historic legacy of winning major tournaments. But I think they've got all the components to do that. And they've shown that in previous tournaments, it's just those fine margins.

"We saw with the men's Euros, just how the whole nation kind of stops, gets to a standstill. And it's all about the team and whatever everyone can do to support the team and put good vibes into the universe for them. Hopefully, we can emulate that and get a great mass of support behind the women's England team."

...Sarina Wiegman, champion coach with the Netherlands at Euro 2017 who now bosses England's Lionesses

"She seems a very assured manager. She really knows what she's about and what she wants to impart on the squad. In tournaments, you just never know what can happen with your squad: illnesses, injuries, lots of different challenges from outside. So you need everyone to pull together and have a good relationship as well in terms of communication.

"She wants the team to be confident in possession and that they really enjoy having the ball and utilising their threats. And that's the thing I've enjoyed about watching the England team."

... the mighty Spain team that could take Euro 2022 by storm

"You can see that they are a very fluid kind of team where they are very composed in possession. They don't really adjust the way they play to other teams, they're more the sort of team that go and take their games to the opposition. I think that's what we've seen domestically. And it's kind of what we're probably expecting with the Spanish national team as well, because a lot of those players obviously play in the national team as well. So they have a good understanding of each other from club level.

"I think, arguably, the biggest criticism may be that they maybe have lacked the kind of clinical finishes that we've seen with other European sides in like an Ada Hegerberg, for example, for Norway, but they are definitely an exciting outfit with incredible players. And obviously Ballon d'Or winners to look out for, so they'll definitely be hot contenders."

... the brilliance of Netherlands and Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema

"What can you say about Miedema? She's a prolific number nine, but we also know, she can play as a false nine and kind of as a 10. She has that versatility to her game as well as her vision. She can pick out passes that the other players and maybe even pundits don't see. So that's an incredible skill to have.

"In and around the box, she's lethal. Left foot, right foot, she can finish. But with her, it's the finesse. She kind of reminds me of that Bergkamp-esque finesse where she just chops players and you think she's going to shoot, and then she puts you on the floor and checks back in and takes a strike or slips someone in."

... the thrill of playing tournament football

"As a young girl, my ambition was always to play for England. Walking out the tunnel, getting in your shirt, playing in international competitions that are viewed globally, is such an incredible thing as a female athlete.

"It's all the young girls and all the younger players now who get to do that. They're really living a dream, essentially. And it's a fantastic thing that the younger generation have role models to look up to, to help them see that that dream can be a reality."

... who she considers the favourites

"I have to say England. I actually really believe that we have enough quality in the squad to reach a final and hopefully build that belief as we go along in the competition to really get over the line. Hopefully that home support will give them extra energy throughout the tournament."

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