USA face the Netherlands in Sunday’s Women’s World Cup Final
Our Team Reporters assess the sides’ strengths and potential weaknesses
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It has taken a combined 12 matches and 1,110 minutes of FIFA Women’s World Cup™ football to bring USA and the Netherlands to Sunday’s Final.
Throughout it all, and for the interviews, training sessions and press conferences in between, our Team Reporters have been with the finalists every step of the way. Who better, therefore, to assess the attributes and Achilles’ heels that could determine which of these two sides takes home the trophy?
The team’s sharp, fast-paced attack tends to get on the board quick, as we’ve seen consistently at France 2019. Jill Ellis stresses to her players the importance of starting on the front foot, and it shows. The US coach says she would have them attacking for the full 90 minutes if possible, but understands that just isn’t how the game works. But by coming out all guns blazing from the first whistle, this USWNT team has managed to score within the first 12 minutes of every single match they have played so far in this tournament. Captain Alex Morgan has stated that setting the tone in this way so early gives them confidence for the remainder of the match.
Standout forward Megan Rapinoe did not play in the semi-final against England due to a hamstring strain and midfielder Rose Lavelle also came off with an injury to the same muscle. While both are expected to be fit for the Final, will they be operating at 100 per cent? That remains to be seen. But USA at least know they have strength in depth, with Christen Press and Sam Mewis having proved able replacements for this star duo against England.
‘Once it flows, it goes’, one could say about The Netherlands at this year’s Women's World Cup. Players, staff and media alike have said time and time again that the tournament has yet to see the team at their scintillating best. But we’ve definitely seen glimpses. Beautiful pass triangles between the three midfielders, flashes of speed from Shanice van de Sanden and moments of brilliance from Lieke Martens - like her wonderful back-heeled goal in the quarter-final against Italy – have shown what they’re capable of. And when this Dutch team are good, they can be really, really good. If the Netherlands hit top form on Sunday, and their game really begins to flow as it can, USA will find a Final opponent to be reckoned with.
However significant those strengths might be, they also illuminate the Netherlands’ biggest potential weaknesses. It’s been said before that the Dutch rely heavily on a few key players, and when those players fall short of their usual level, the Oranjeleeuwinnen can find themselves in a world of trouble. Shanice van de Sanden has struggled with her form throughout the tournament, Lieke Martens is toiling with a toe injury and starting goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal walked off the pitch after beating Sweden in the semi-final on Wednesday with a swollen hand. The real worry for the Oranjeleeuwinnen will be what happens if one or more of their star players is not fit in time for #LaGrandeFinale.