The Netherlands winger has underwhelmed at this Women’s World Cup but has the chance to turn things around in the stadium she calls home
Two assists in last season’s Women’s Champions League final, three assists off the bench in the final the season before, winner’s medals after both – statistics make doubts over Shanice van de Sanden’s ability seem bizarre.
This is a winger who constantly delivers on the big stage for the biggest club in the women’s game, Olympique Lyonnais, and who scored three times for the Netherlands in qualification for this summer’s Women’s World Cup.
But in what is possibly the biggest summer of her career, Van de Sanden has underwhelmed for Oranje, despite their progression to the semi-finals.
For the past two years, the 26-year-old has called Lyon home – and she’s been very happy here.
Winning five of the six major honours on offer to her with the French club since joining, it could have more positive connotations come the end of this week.
The Netherlands are favourites for their World Cup semi-final clash with Sweden on Wednesday evening, and a win would book a place against the United States in the final on Sunday; again at the Stade de Lyon.
But Van de Sanden’s form in France for her national team has been much like it is for her club – sporadic.
While the stats and her record in big games tell a different story, the true tale is one of five-minute spells of sheer brilliance, blistering pace and pinpoint deliveries.
It’s that which makes the rest of her usual performances so frustrating to watch.
“Before the match, I told Shanice to stick to her qualities because she was asking too many questions,” Wendie Renard said after Lyon’s latest Champions League triumph.
“With that, she hurt the opponent and she delivered two good passes.”
Despite heading to the World Cup on a high from that win and performance, Van de Sanden has come in for criticism since.
“[She] has had enough chances,” said John Volkers, journalist at the Volkskrant, on NOS’ Sportforum. “After her bad first game, she has had four chances to recover.”
Lineth Beerensteyn is the back-up to the Lyon star, and VI reporter Stef de Bont believes she has done enough to justify a start instead.
“If I were Beerensteyn, I would have stepped in with national coach Sarina Wiegman and would have put my fist on the table, saying: I see it, my fellow players see it and the whole of the Netherlands sees it,” he said.
“Don’t I deserve it?”
De Bont has a point. Despite not starting a game at the tournament and playing 103 minutes of football compared to Van de Sanden’s 367, Beerensteyn has a goal and an assist to her name while her team-mate has just one assist.
“I think she’s having a hard time,” Wiegman told NOS of the Netherlands No. 7.
“Shanice has proven recently that she can give great assists and make goals.
“Now she has trouble with that, the return is lower.”
“We know that she is that moment footballer, she is very dangerous in the depths.
“We have talked to her, as we do with all players, and we are going to evaluate and see what we need against Sweden.”
A drop to the bench could signal the end of a glorious two years at the top for Van de Sanden as, not only is she under threat for her Netherlands place, but also her Lyon place.
The club’s summer signing of Nikita Parris will provide further competition for the flying Dutch winger, and stern competition at that.
She has already been sharing right wing duties with Delphine Cascarino and now arrives an England international who bagged 19 goals and seven assists in 19 FA Women’s Super League this season – while also being named FWA Women’s Player of the Year.
Van de Sanden could be playing to put herself in the shop window on Wednesday evening, or to keep her place at Lyon.
Regardless of which it is and regardless of what happens in the future, the Netherlands need a big display from her.
Sweden are well-drilled and, although they have left their defensive approach behind, they remain solid at the back.
But if Van de Sanden is on her game, and can bring more than just occasional flashes of brilliance to the field, there will be little they can do to stop her.
And, with her club future looking cloudy, there is no better place to do it than at the Stade de Lyon.