In an attritional display, Netherlands outlasted Sweden to win 1-0 after extra time and make the World Cup final.
The European Champions will now face the World Champions on Sunday in Lyon for football’s ultimate prize. What did we learn?
1. Jumping Jackie Flash
It needed something special to break the deadlock in this game. The goalkeepers were playing well, the defenders were playing well, and the tension of possibly missing out on a World Cup final against the USA was an anchor attached to every attacking player out there. How do you execute amid such tensions?
A superb finish. 👌 pic.twitter.com/lJ0rKhsDnO
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 3, 2019
Well you can do what Jackie Groenen did and look into the future. That is the only explanation for how Groenen made the movement she did. With the ball at Danielle van de Donk’s feet, Groenen started moving. There was no angle for a pass but she was on her way anyway. Then the pass came into Vivianne Miedema who had dropped deep, crucially bring Linda Sembrant with her.
Under pressure from an excellent defender, Miedema touched the ball to her right. It would have amounted to nothing, a bad touch really, but because Groenen was already moving the ball hit her perfectly in stride and she stepped beyond Sembrant into a mile of space. From here she took a second and then buried a beautiful daisy cutter right into the corner of the net.
Bang. Deadlock broken by a truly special strike. And we began the long race towards football’s Wrestlemania VI as the World and European Champions face off in the ultimate title clash.
2. Goalkeeping Glory
After Alyssa Naehler stole some headlines by saving a penalty against England in the first semi-final, Sari van Veenendaal and Hedvig Lindahl made their own cases for some of that sweet limelight. Van Veenendaal was the busier of the two stoppers, constantly diving about her goal trying to contain a lively and expressive Sweden style. Her diving stop from Nilla Fischer to push the Swede’s shot onto the post was particularly impressive, as was the first-half save she made with her feet.
But whilst veteran Lindahl, playing in her 12th international tournament with Sweden, spent the vast majority of the game being a spectator – she was called on to handle a Vivianne Miedema header. The Arsenal striker fired the ball at the goal from close range and it would have surely gone in but for a stunning upward thrust of the hand from Lindahl, nudging the ball onto the bar. She even knocked a piledriver of a shot form Shanice van de Sanden over the bar too.
Whilst it was a shame to miss out on the kind of attacking action that made Tuesday so enjoyable, it was refreshing to see two goalkeepers stand out in such a superb way. It took a goal as perfectly played as Jackie Groenen’s to finally break the stalemate. An ordinary finish wouldn’t do, it had to be a miracle strike. The goalkeeping dominance was summed up by the last bit of action before the final whistle being Sari van Veenendaal coming to collect a cross over an absolute avalanche of players.
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3. Losing Lieke
With Shanice van de Sanden playing so poorly and Danielle van de Donk dominating the middle of the pitch but not impacting the final third as regularly as she’d like, the main hub of creativity from the Netherlands, outside of Sherida Spitse’s set pieces of course, has been the no. 11 Lieke Martens. Yet the Barcelona forward has been battling a toe injury in particular since the end of the round of 16.
Coach Sarina Wiegman has been riding her talisman this far in the tournament but Martens did not look herself in the first half against Sweden and then went off at half-time. Without their star turn, the Dutch had nothing to offer creatively from open play besides a couple of explosions of pace from their wingers and it took 99 minutes before they truly showed a spark of creativity to do something in open play, and after they scored they never showed it again. The Dutch will be praying that Martens can be fit for the eventual final because they need her.
4. Against the wind
Caroline Seger is 34-years-old and has 195 caps for Sweden. This World Cup is her 11th tournament showing with her national side. She has been one of the great players in the world who has starred for and won many trophies with multiple clubs including the powerhouses Lyon.
But she bowed out of the 2019 World Cup in the most underwhelming of ways. Despite exerting plenty of control during 90 minutes, she faded badly in extra time and was a mere spectator as the Dutch took the lead and then couldn’t help turn the tide of the match despite having 20 more minutes of football to go.
In the end it was a shame but you cannot be surprise. At 34 against a midfield as athletic as the Dutch’s was, Seger was always going to be running against the wind. She’d never stop running, but Father Time is undefeated.
5. No American Coronation
There has been so much talk (primarily in the English media) about how USA/England “should have been the final” (and this after USA/France “should have been the final”) which, alright, both teams were very good but it was awfully presumptive about both Sweden and the Netherlands. Like beating them would be a formality.
Now sure, America prevailing does make it more likely that Netherlands will end the tournament as runner-up because honestly the American side is an awesome juggernaut and whilst the Dutch are European Champions they aren’t on the same level and may be without their talismanic forward Lieke Martens.
So sure, the USA will be heavy favourites, but don’t just assume that the Dutch will roll over and die. This game showed exactly that they can step up and defend if need be and have the ability to lift themselves despite fatigue and raise their game to defeat their opponents. Watch out America, the Dutch are coming!