Wiegman has pedigree to restore Lionesses pride

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Netherlands vs Denmark - Women's Euro 2017 Final - Enschede, Netherlands - August 6, 2017 Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman celebrates with the trophy after winning the Euro 2017 Final REUTERS/Yves Herman/

(Reuters) - When the Netherlands claimed the Women’s Euro 2017 title on home soil it was a surprise victory that heralded a new era for the team under coach Sarina Wiegman, whose innovation and attention to detail were largely credited with the success.

She would follow that up by taking the national side to the final of the Women’s World Cup in France last year, where only a 2-0 defeat by the all-powerful United States kept the Dutch from adding the global crown as well.

It was a meteoric rise for the Netherlands, who only qualified for their first World Cup in 2015 and were appearing at just their third European Championship.

It contrasted with years of underachievement in a country where women’s football did not have anything like the status or financial backing as elsewhere in Europe and beyond, and needed a powerful leader to drag it into the professional age.

The English FA announced on Friday that they have now turned to Wiegman no doubt hoping she can bring that same magic touch when she takes over as coach of The Lionesses from September 2021 once she has led the Dutch to the Olympics in Tokyo.

The 50-year-old, who has signed a four-year deal to succeed Phil Neville, won 104 international caps as a defender and by her own admission, lives and breathes football, which is perhaps easier to do with husband Marten Glotzbach in the house.

He currently works as a youth coach at Dutch top-flight side ADO Den Haag.

Wiegman was also once the coach of the women’s team at the club, where her talent for the job was quickly identified and she was placed on a fast-track system to get her into the national set-up at the Dutch FA.

That included a spell as assistant coach with the men’s side at Jong Sparta Rotterdam, who played in the second tier.

Wiegman says that period showed her greater professionalism was needed in the women’s game if Netherlands were to succeed.

"I entered the world of professional men's football and that was great fun and educational," she told the Dutch FA website.

"We have to move quickly to that higher level of professionalism. That is, of course, about money, but also in facilities and possibilities."

The spell at Sparta was to assist Wiegman in earning her UEFA Pro Licence, a rarity for a female coach.

"What I already had as a player, I also want to be as a coach and that is to become the best I can be," she said.

At that stage, Wiegman was already assistant coach of the national side, a role she took up in 2014, before being elevated to head coach, initially on an interim basis, in 2016.

She had legendary tactician Foppe de Haan as her assistant, regarded by many as one of the finest footballing brains in the Netherlands, but soon cut her own path to success.

The Euro triumph in 2017 led to Wiegman being named Best FIFA Women's Coach that year, while she has also placed second in the last two seasons. Success with England could lead her back to the top spot and she is ready for the challenge.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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