- USA and Netherlands Legends have their say on Sunday’s Final
- Lilly won FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999
- Van de Ven part of Netherlands first-ever Women’s World Cup campaign
The centre of Lyon provided the perfect setting for some legends of the game to roll back the years as former players from the men’s and women’s game took part in a five-a-side match at the FIFA Fan Experience at Place Bellecour.
Two players on the same team, who will be very much in opposing corners come tomorrow evening, were 1999 World Cup winner Kristine Lilly and Dutch midfielder Kirsten Van de Ven, who was part of the Netherlands’ first Women’s World Cup appearance in 2015. They did so ahead of their respective nations competing in front of over 50,000 fans in Lyon, with both on the verge of emulating historic German achievements.
USA are looking to become just the second country to win back-to-back Women’s World Cups, something Germany managed with wins in 2003 and 2007. The Netherlands, meanwhile, would become only the second nation to become world and European champions.
Van de Ven, who scored in the World Cup four years ago in a 1-1 draw with hosts Canada, knows the Dutch start as underdogs. “The US has great athleticism and they come out strong in the first 15 minutes, but I hope we can shut them down and then make it into a tactical game,” she said. “We have a chance. It’s a small chance, but a chance all the same.”
Victory would a remarkable climb for the Netherlands, who only competed in their first major tournament ten years ago at the UEFA European Championship in Finland. But a continental title on home soil two years ago has propelled the Dutch into the game’s elite, and now they stand just 90 minutes away from another historic achievement.
“It’s amazing, the game has developed a lot, but this is definitely a new chapter,” said Van de Ven. “It’s happened very quickly. But we have a great team and you have to have a little bit of luck, and I think we’ve had that.”
USA, meanwhile, will go into their third Women’s World Cup Final in a row looking to live up to their favourites tag and repeat their performance in the 2015 Final, when they beat Japan 5-2.
Having won a World Cup 20 years ago, Lilly knows what it takes to get over the line and lift the coveted trophy. She highlighted where the game could be won and lost.
“It takes the team to win: if someone is not on, then someone else has to step up,” she said. “We have to finish in the attacking third, but Vivianne Miedema is awesome, so we have to mark it tight at the back as well.”
In many people’s eyes, the US start as overwhelming favourites, having knocked out the hosts and much-fancied England en route to the Final. But Lilly dismissed any suggestions that complacency could creep into the holders’ camp.
“I think everyone is always gunning the U.S as the top-ranked team in the world,” she said. “But the players don’t assume it, they earn it.
“Holland is a good side and have had a good tournament. But the US has a strong front six, so it will be exciting to see what Holland does to stop those attacking weapons.”