The USA celebrated its independence this week and it may well celebrate a third World Cup for their women’s team today with a victory over the Netherlands. Jill Scott’s team have fought tenaciously to make it through to this stage, with a mix of exceptional quality and resistance taking them through ties against Spain, hosts France, and England.
Their strategies have been two-fold. A ferocious start, usually accompanied by a goal for Megan Rapinoe (an injury doubt), more early pressure before they then sit back and defend their lead, holding off their opposition for the rest of the game.
Whatever team Jill Scott decides to play, the USA can field a world-class outfit, and we’ve already seen them make successful changes before Scott had to leave out Megan Rapinoe thanks to a hamstring strain against England. That didn’t change things too much – Christen Press opened the scoring after a lightning fast start and after England hit back the US found another gear, with Alex Morgan putting them back in front.
The press they employed against England was unbelievably effective – they could have come away with more than two goals from the first half then – and one can see them using a similar strategy against the Dutch.
The European Championship winners have also come here the hard way, getting the better of Japan with a 90th-minute sucker-punch thanks to Lieke Martens’ penalty, coming after the Japanese had been dominating the game. They were better against Italy, winning 2-0 thanks to a pair of second-half headers. They had dominated the second 45 – They had 15 shots in that period – to earn a slot against Sweden in their semi-final.
They won that in extra-time, but not after they’d been indebted to goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal for some excellent saves and midfielder Jackie Groenen’s sweet extra-time strike.
However, they should not be underestimated. The Euro 2017 Champions are stacked with individual quality and do have the pace to get at the Americans when they do have the ball.
Sherida Spitse has four assists in the tournament and set up both goals against Italy, and there is, of course, Arsenal’s Danielle van de Donk too. It’s not a surprise that they have failed to score at least two goals only twice in their last nine games.
However, to succeed, they will need to do two things. Firstly, prevent the US from scoring early, and secondly, to strike back and break down their defence if/when they do. England managed it then through a sharp Ellen White finish, but they were overrun for much of the first 20 there and Sweden dominated much of the early exchanges in the semi.
Getting at the centreback pairing of Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn is possible, even when Julie Ertz drops back, is possible, but the Dutch will need to do it more efficiently than England did if they are to take a result.
The USA v Netherlands, 4pm
2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final
Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Décines-Charpieu, BBC1
A price of 2/5 for the USA to win in 90 minutes feels too short, but they are first in goals scored, first in expected goals, first in shots, first in shots on target second (tied) in goals conceded, first in expected goals allowed, third in shots allowed and second in shots on target allowed through the tournament and they can retain their title here.
When they have put their foot down, they have looked like the world’s number one team, and they have scored their opening goals at this summer’s championship in the 12th, 11th, 3rd, 7th, 5th and 10th minutes. If doing so again – and the Dutch were very much under the pump early against the Swedes – then they could be too good to pull back.
The Dutch can leave their mark though. They have the quality and all of the USA’s knockout opponents have scored against them – indeed they’ve won all three of their knockout games by the scoreline of 2-1 and that looks a fair price at 13/2, although whatever happens the USA might prove to be too strong.
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