- Jackie Groenen scored the goal which lifted the Netherlands into their first Final
- Midfielder had yet to shoot on target during the tournament
- Groenen’s career could easily have gone down a different path
By Emma Coolen with the Netherlands
Who would portray Jackie Groenen if a movie was to be made about her life? Well, it might be time to start thinking about that because her story reads like a classic tale of what can happen when you believe in your dreams.
As a former Dutch youth national champion in judo and promising football talent, Groenen was forced to choose between her two favourite sports. Groenen eventually settled on football, and what a momentous decision that proved to be.
It is fair to say midfielder Groenen is not renowned as a goalscorer. In fact the 24-year-old had netted just twice in 52 prior internationals, and had not managed a shot on target throughout the past month at France 2019.
That all changed in dramatic fashion on Wednesday as Groenen conjured up an extra-time winner against Sweden. That laser-precision strike lifted the Netherlands into a maiden Final against USA on Sunday.
The Tilburg-born midfielder, who is well-known for her positive upbeat attitude, couldn’t stop smiling after the game. “Yeah, it’s pretty nice,” Groenen said through a trademark smile and no shortage of humility, when asked how it feels to score such a historic goal.
“To be perfectly honest with you, as long as somebody scores the goal that takes us to the World Cup Final, I don’t really care who it is, as long as someone does it.
“I’m just so honoured to wear this jersey, every single time I get the chance to do it.”
Yet Groenen was very close to following a different path to the top. Groenen briefly looked at representing Belgium, having grown up in Poppel just across the border from the Netherlands.
At that moment, she probably could never imagine someday scoring the goal that led her country to a World Cup Final. “I think today truly shows what can happen when you dream big,” Groenen told FIFA.com. “[This is] surreal.”
The last four years have been simply extraordinary for the Oranjeleeuwinnen. Canada 2015 was the nation’s Women’s World Cup debut and came only after edging a tense four-way play-off to qualify. Two years later came an almost unthinkable triumph as the Netherlands secured a dynamic UEFA Women’s EURO win on home soil, having only featured in two previous editions of the tournament.
The Netherlands may start as underdogs against the reigning world champions on Sunday in Lyon, but they will lack little for self-belief.
So what makes this group of players so special? “In our team we play with confidence, and we give each other confidence,” Groenen said. “And that feels so great.”