LYON • The future of the Netherlands women's football team looks as bright as their shirts, after the fast-improving Oranje added a World Cup runners-up medal to their maiden European title - as long as investment continues to pour into the game.
Playing solid football throughout the tournament, the Dutch came up short in Sunday's final, failing to click as an attacking force as they went down 2-0 to defending champions the United States.
But their coach Sarina Wiegman believes they can hold their heads high after making their first final in only their second appearance at the tournament, insisting "there is high potential in this team".
She said: "Since 2017, we have done a good job and we would have loved to win this final, but our opponents were better today.
"I'm proud that we are second in the world, but we can still improve. We go to the Olympics for the first time in history. Our average age is under 26, so a lot of players will continue developing. The near future looks good but, the far future, we need to improve our facilities for further development."
Her side kept the Americans at bay for an hour, but a 61st-minute penalty that was awarded by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) proved to be their undoing.
Forward Megan Rapinoe converted from the spot and midfielder Rose Lavelle doubled the tally as the Americans ran out comfortable winners. But Dutch defender Anouk Dekker felt the real difference between her side and their opponents was the experience level as the favourites were playing in their fifth World Cup final.
Women's football has, however, gained popularity in the Netherlands following their Euro 2017 triumph at home and they will look to consolidate their rapid progression when they make their bow at the Tokyo Summer Games next year.
Wiegman said: "In earlier times, women were not accepted in football, and now they're more accepted, but a little behind.
"When you're behind, you need to work harder to get it equal. We need to encourage more women to get involved in football."
Full-back Desiree van Lunteren also urged her compatriots to continue developing their skills outside the Netherlands, "where the competition is better".
None of the Dutch starters on Sunday plied their trade at home and the Freiburg player said their improvement had come from playing abroad.
She added: "If you look where you come from, we did very well. It can only get better and better.
"Everyone is fitter, they're playing better and, if we do that more and more, in four years, we can do well again."