There’s nothing quite like a World Cup Final. It’s one of a handful of moments where the whole world puts everything on hold for a few hours. The anticipation, the hype, the excitement, and the energy all combine to make it one of the grandest spectacles in sport. The magnitude of the moment is nothing new for the French organizers, having hosted the 1998 World Cup as well as the 2016 European Championships. The USWNT is also no stranger to big tournament finals having been to four of the previous seven Women’s World Cup Finals (as well as the gold medal game at five of the last six Olympics). But their opponent is something of an up and comer on the women’s international soccer scene. The Netherlands may have won the 2017 Women’s European Championships, but playing against the US in a World Cup Final is an altogether different animal.
The road to the final for the US was about a tough as it could have been and they’ve passed every test with flying colors. They topped Group F with a maximum nine points out of nine, posting a 13-0 win over Thailand, a 3-0 win over Chile, and a 2-0 win over Sweden. Once on to the Round of 16 they faced a rising Spain side. They went ahead 1-0 almost immediately (as they have done in every single game so far in this tournament) on a penalty from Megan Rapinoe. Unlike their previous three games however, their opponent hit back as the Spanish equalized just minutes later. Eventually it was Megan Rapinoe who dispatched another penalty to give the US a 2-1 win. In the quarterfinals it was the turn of the host nation to fall to the US. Prior to the tournament, many experts fancied this to be the best game of the tournament and figured that the winner of this game would win the title. As usual the US jumped out to an early lead through Rapinoe and never looked back. They were up 2-0 (and had a case that they should have been up 3-0) before France pulled one back and lamely attempted a rally but it fell short, as the French women tend to do on the major stage. For the US it was on to the semifinals against England, one of just three teams the US had not beaten in 2019. As had been the case in all of their previous games this WWC, the US took an early lead through Christen Press. But the English tied it back up just nine minutes later before Alex Morgan got her sixth goal of the tournament (tied for the lead with England’s Ellen White). But in the second half England had so many opportunities to tie the game up, whether it was an equalizer that was waved off due to offside or a penalty that Steph Houghton saw saved by Alyssa Naher. But in the end it was the US who ran out the victors and earned a spot in the final.
For the Netherlands, this tournament has been one fun ride. They’ve been a team on the rise for a few years now and reaching the final is the culmination of all the effort and energy put into this team by the Dutch FA. Four years ago they made the Women’s World Cup debut in Canada and surprised a number of people by qualifying for the knockout rounds, despite being drawn into a group with Canada, China and New Zealand. They finished in 3rd in the group with four points and progressed to the Round of 16 where they lost 2-1 to Japan. In 2017 they played host to the UEFA Women’s European Championships and won the title, winning all six games along the way. At this edition of the Women’s World Cup they were drawn into Group E with Canada, Cameroon, and New Zealand and finished top of the group with a maximum nine points out of nine. They won their opener 1-0 against the Kiwis on a 92nd minute goal from Jill Roord. In their second game they made short work of the Cameroonians (who went on to become the most infamous storyline of this whole tournament with their appalling behavior in the Round of 16 against England) by a score of 3-1. They closed out the group stage with a 2-1 win over Canada. In the Round of 16, they got revenge on Japan for their knockout loss four years ago by beating them 2-1 behind two goals from Lieke Martens, including a penalty in the 90th minute. In the quarterfinals they had to battle against Italy but two goals in the second half saw them book their ticket to the semifinals. There they ran into Sweden and were taken to extra time. Late game magic has been something of a theme for the Dutch at this tournament and this time was no different as Jackie Groenen got the goal in 99th minute to seal their spot in the final. Despite limited appearances on the major international stage, the Dutch have a number of players with plenty of international experience. Sherida Spitse has 30 goals in 162 caps, Lieke Martens has 42 goals in 103 caps, and Loes Geurts has 123 caps in goal. They also have at least one payer who has played in the US with defender Meral van Dongen playing three years of college soccer at the University of Alabama.
1. This is the third straight WWC Final appearance for the US.
2. Megan Rapinoe did not play in the semifinal against England, but expects to be good to go for the final.
3. Viewership for the final four years ago on FOX was over 25,000,000.
When and where the game can be found on US TV and streaming
Sunday, September 18, 2016
USA 3-1 Netherlands
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