Lieke Martens: “Scoring at Canada 2015 was wonderful”.
Scorer of the Netherlands’ first goal on their debut appearance at a FIFA Women’s World Cup, Lieke Martens spoke exclusively to Women’s Soccer United.
Talk to Lieke Martens and you soon discover she has a wise head on young shoulders, perhaps unsurprisingly, given that, at the age of 22, she already boasts league experience from four different countries.
“Yes, that’s right: I’ve played in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and now Sweden,” said the Dutch international in an exclusive interview with Women’s Soccer United. “Everywhere I’ve been has been good for me, and I think I’ve made the right decisions so far. Even so, it’d be good to stay in one place for a little longer now, to help my development more.”
Would that place be current club Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, where she has been since 2014? “Yeah, I’m very happy here in Gothenburg. It’s a nice place to live, we have a good team and I think that, along with Germany, this is one of the strongest, most competitive leagues in Europe.
“I’ve learned to speak Swedish, which I felt was important for communicating with my team-mates and coach [Stefan Rehn], even though, in [midfielder] Danielle Van de Donk, [forward] Manon Melis and [goalkeeper] Loes Geurts, we’ve got a mini-Dutch national team going on here!”
Should the gifted attacker one day decide to move, however, she will not be short of suitors, particularly after catching the eye with a history-making strike against New Zealand at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015.
“It was a great feeling when that shot went in,” said Martens, whose thumping effort from the edge of the box, struck with her favoured right foot after cutting in from the left, was later voted the competition’s fifth best goal. “It was a wonderful feeling to score that goal, the Netherlands’ first at a Women’s World Cup, particularly as it turned out to be the winner.”
Yet that might not have been the case had the young left-winger not enjoyed a touch of good fortune later in that same Group A match. “Yeah… After the game I thought: ‘Oh my God, I’m so lucky the ref didn’t blow her whistle then!’” she said, casting her mind back to a somewhat rash penalty-area challenge on the Kiwis’ Hannah Wilkinson. “So I think, all things considered, that really was my lucky day!”
Her lucky day aside, what were her overall impressions of Canada 2015, where the OranjeLeeuwinnen (Orange Lionesses) made it all the way to the Round of 16? “It was a huge tournament, everything about it was big. There were so many people coming to the games, and the way the tournament was covered was great. It was an amazing event for women’s soccer,” said the former SC Heerenveen, VVV-Venlo, Standard de Liège and FCR 2001 Duisburg player.
Turning the focus to the Netherlands’ next major objective – March’s four-team qualifying event for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio de Janeiro 2016, in which the Dutch will vie with Sweden, Switzerland and Norway on home soil for one available slot at the Games – she said: “I think we can beat all these teams on our day, but they’re all capable of beating us too. We’ll be using every FIFA date between now and then to prepare and work towards where we want to be in March, but it’ll be very tight. We’ll just have to see who’s in the best form at the time.”
And while Martens would surely love to sample the Olympic atmosphere in Brazil next August, an arguably even greater challenge lies ahead the following year, when the Netherlands host the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017. “It should be really amazing and really good for our country,” she said before taking her leave:
“The women’s game here is still growing, and we’re still growing as a national side, so it’ll be a great opportunity to show our country how far we’ve come and how good we are. What’s more, since the Women’s World Cup there has been so much interest, so many little girls in Holland following us and wanting to copy us. We’re hoping that, within a few years’ time, football will be the biggest women’s sport in the country.”